Why should I kegel?
Kegels are important throughout a woman's life. They strengthen the pelvic floor preventing problems with sagging and incontinence. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles will also increase sexual pleasure.
During pregnancy the pelvic floor must support the weight of the growing baby. Without exercise the muscles weaken and sag causing incontinence and increasing the risk of injury to the birth canal when the baby is born. Kegel exercises also help you learn how to push effectively, relaxing the pelvic floor to allow the baby to pass through.
During menopause, the drop in estrogen decreases the strength of the kegel muscles. If your muscles were weak before starting menopause, you may find yourself suddenly dealing with incontinence. In fact, as many as 40% of post-menopausal women deal with incontinence. But this condition is treatable without medications. Even if your pelvic floor is already weak enough to cause urine leakage, you can strengthen it to regain control.
Kegel exercises help prevent urinary incontinence by strengthening the pelvic floor.
Kegel exercises help you learn how to push properly for second stage labor, preventing damage to the muscle.
Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles that support the uterus and abdominal contents, preventing problems with sagging.
Kegel exercises keep the vaginal canal tight and long to prevent damage while the baby passes through.
How to do it
The Kegel exercises are a series of muscle contractions that will take you several weeks to master. Build slowly, allowing yourself at least a week to strengthen and gain control of the muscle.
To begin, try to isolate the pelvic floor by contracting it as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Do not worry at first about letting go of the contraction, just let it relax on its own.
The second step is to learn how to let go of the contraction.
Then begin building the strength of the muscle by holding the contraction for 1 second, then 2 seconds and eventually up to 3 seconds.
When you are strong enough to hold the contraction for 3 seconds, increase your control of the muscle by contracting a little, then a little more, then all the way. Learn to contract the muscle in increments before you begin to learn to relax the muscle in increments.
The last step is to learn to relax, or bulge the muscle. This is the same movement you use to release the flow of urine. After contracting the muscle, bulge it out (if you have difficultly determining if the muscle is bulged, put your hand along the perineum. You should feel it bulge out as you relax the kegel muscle).
How do I know I'm doing it right?
The pelvic floor is an internal muscle, so you will not see movement outside the body when you are doing it correctly. The kegel exercise is not squeezing your buttocks. It is also not squeezing your legs together or tilting your pelvis. When the exercise is done properly you will feel the muscle contracting but will not see any external movement.
When first learning to kegel, some women have success at trying to stop the flow of urine while peeing. This lets you know you have the right muscle. Other women find sitting with their legs in front of them gives them a better feel for which muscle they are tightening.
If you still struggle with finding the right squeeze, talk to your doctor You may be able to work with a physical therapist to learn to isolate the appropriate muscle.
How often to do it
Kegel exercises should be done daily. You can do one long set, however some women find that to be overly tiring for the muscle. It works just as well to do several sets of 10 to 20 contractions throughout the day.
Find something that you do several times a day, and use that as a reminder to kegel. Some activities that may work well could be: answering a telephone, going to the bathroom, stopping at a red light, getting a glass of water, picking up toys or checking your email.
Have trouble remembering to do your kegel exercises? Put sticky notes up in places you see often, like your bathroom mirror. Help tone your uterus while you tone your pelvic floor by drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea.