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What Are Kegels, and Why Should I Do Them?

Going to the loo more often may mean weakening pelvic muscles and Kegel could help that.

 
 

Kegel exercises (also called “pelvic floor exercises”) strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum.

Kegels don’t just help keep them “fit” — they can help you avoid embarrassing accidents, like bladder leakage and passing gas and — or even stool — by accident. They can even improve your orgasms.

Why Kegels?

Named after Arnold Henry Kegel an American gynaecologist who invented an instrument for measuring the strength of voluntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles the Kegel exercises were born In the late 1940’s.

Dr. Kegel made an interesting discovery that brought a successful change to many lives. Until then many women found that they suffered from urinary incontinence after giving birth. Sometimes something as simple as coughing would cause their bladder to discharge a small amount of urine.

Before Dr. Kegel this concern was treated either with drugs or even with a surgical procedure that would attempt to alleviate the problem by repositioning the bladder— with limited success.

Dr. Kegel made a great leap of faith and began to suggest to women that a set of muscles deep in the bowl of the pelvis might have something to do with their discomfort. He thought correctly that weakness in these muscles, which were affected by childbirth and also supported the urinary tract could be responsible for the incontinence that these women were experiencing.

He began to suggest a series of exercises, soon to be known as Kegel exercises,  meant to strengthen these muscles known as the levator ani, a group of three muscles that form a hammock or sling at the base of the pelvis connecting the front, back and two sides (The pubic bone, the tail bone and the two ischial tuberosities or sit bones).

Why are they helpful?

When they’re working like they should, your pelvic floor muscles may never cross your mind. But over time — as we age — these muscles can start to weaken.

This puts us at risk for a condition doctors call “pelvic organ prolapse” (POP). Basically, your pelvic organs start to droop. They can start to fall into or out of your vagina.

Sometimes, if you’ve had a hysterectomy, your vaginal tissues can start to come out of your body, too.

Other things that put you at risk for POP include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Giving birth through the vagina
  • Surgery in the pelvic area (C-section or hysterectomy)
  • Genetics
  • Frequent coughing, laughing, or sneezing (it pushes on the pelvic organs)

 

How Do I do them?

Sit on the toilet and try to pee. Once urine starts to flow, squeeze your muscles to hold it in. You should feel the muscles inside your vagina “lift.” You just did one Kegel. Relax the muscle and do it again.

But don’t get into the habit of doing them while you pee. You can actually cause other problems, like urinary tract infections.

Start slowly. Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds, then release for 3 seconds. Do this 10 times in a row. That’s one set. If you can’t do 10, do as many as you can and build up over time. Try to work up to one set of 10 Kegels two to three times a day.

Kegels aren’t harmful. In fact, you can make them a part of your daily routine. Do them while you’re brushing your teeth, driving to work, eating dinner, or watching TV.

How long before I see results?

Most women who do Kegels regularly see results (such as reduced urine leakage) within a few weeks or months. If you’re still concerned about your prolapse or don’t feel your symptoms are getting better, talk to your doctor about other treatments.

Helpful information: 

Stress or urinary incontinence is common at menopause and this simple exercise really can make a difference. So too can your hormone balance so you may also find these articles give you more information.

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