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American gynecologist Arnold Kegel developed a non-surgical method for treating uterine prolapse (sagging), urinary incontinence, bladder, or vaginal, and other pelvic health issues were developed in the 1940s. Since then, they have become the standard of care for these conditions. Needless to say, these workouts came to be named Kegel exercises and have since helped mothers and women maintain their vaginal wall strength.
We are here to give you an insight into the A-Z of performing Kegel exercises and more. Read on to uncover the tips to do them correctly, the timing, positions, and other factors.
What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, a group of muscles that run like a hammock from the tailbone to the pubic bone. The pubococcygeus (PC), alongside and around the openings of the rectum, vagina, and urethra is the primary muscle of the pelvic floor.
The uterus, bladder, and colon are among the pelvic organs supported by this layer of muscles. The bladder and rectal sphincters, which provide us voluntary control over the rectum and urinary tract and the discharge of urine, feces, and farts, are strengthened by these muscles. These muscles are also responsible for keeping your organs in place.
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
The following can be prevented or treated with the help of a strong pelvic floor:
- Leaking urine when sneezing, laughing, exercising, or coughing (stress urinary incontinence)
- Strong, unexpected urinal impulses called urgency urinary incontinence
- Unexpected leaking of stool (bowel incontinence)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Lower back pain
- Postpartum incontinence
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination
- Constipation or painful bowel movements
If you have any particular concerns about your pelvic health, especially if you are pregnant or have just given birth, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting these exercises. Pelvic muscle weakness could either be related to natural childbirth or other unrelated underlying issues. To find out a clearer answer, your doctor may advise you to wait till you have completely recovered to begin Kegel training.
Read on to know more about the 3 main benefits of Kegel exercises.
1. Bladder Control
Urine leakage is a common problem for women throughout pregnancy and after delivery. The danger is higher if the child was born vaginally and goes up if you’ve had more kids. You may be unable to control your urge to urinate before you have reached the bathroom or you may have experienced stress incontinence, which is spilling a few drops of urine when you cough, laugh or sneeze. All these conditions can be prevented by performing Kegels.
2. Pelvic Organ Support
Pelvic organ prolapse (a condition where the uterus, urethra, and/or intestine droop down into the vagina) may occur during vaginal delivery. This is because the pelvic floor muscles may become weaker making it difficult for them to adequately support the pelvic organs. Your doctor could suggest Kegels as a part of your treatment approach.
3. Fecal Incontinence
This ailment makes you leak feces before you reach the restroom. Kegels can help avoid this by strengthening the rectal muscles.
Toning the vaginal muscles is aided by exercising the pelvic floor, which can improve sexual health and pleasure. Studies have found a clear connection between sexual dysfunction and weak pelvic floor muscles.
Kegel Exercises During Pregnancy
Improving the strength of the pelvic floor muscles while you are pregnant helps in improving the capacity to relax and regulate these muscles during labor and delivery. Kegels, which stretch during vaginal delivery, can aid in the healing of perineal tissues during the postpartum period. The majority of studies show a connection between pregnancy and decreased pelvic floor strength.
You might choose to begin doing Kegels around the second trimester of pregnancy when many expectant mamas enjoy a much-needed energy boost. If you have an uncomplicated vaginal birth, you may begin exercising Kegels a few days after your baby is born; however, you must first feel ready. Wait till your doctor gives you the green signal if you experienced problems during delivery via vaginal delivery or a C-section.
How to Practice Kegel Exercises Correctly?
Kegels are usually safe to begin at any time and may be used to prevent or treat issues related to pelvic health. Kegels, however, may potentially aggravate your symptoms if you have an active pelvic floor. A pelvic floor physiotherapist may assist you with the examination of your pelvic floor and offer suggestions and a customized treatment plan for you.
Kegel exercises involve squeezing your vaginal walls. These workouts may be done anywhere and don’t require any specialized equipment. Simply identify the appropriate muscles, tense, hold, loosen, relax, and resume.
Identify The Right Muscles
This might be simpler said than done at times. Getting a handle on which muscles to use might be a little challenging. Rest assured, though, the exercises themselves are simple. The secret is to identify the right muscles and learn how to use them properly.
Here are four methods to identify the right muscles:
- Sit on an imaginary marble and pretend to pick up the marble with your vagina.
- Insert a clean finger into your vagina and try to hold your urine.
- Urinate and stop mid-stream. The muscles you will use to do this are the right muscles but do not attempt Kegels every time you pee. It will increase the chances of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).
- Use weighted vaginal cones to squeeze and help you track your Kegels. These are small round computer mouses like things that can be inserted into your vagina like a tampon.
When Should You Do Kegel Exercises?
The timing of practicing Kegels is not fixed. Kegels can be done daily, according to some doctors, while others advise doing them at least twice a week. There are several alternatives for how many and how frequently to perform Kegels. Your doctor could advise performing 50 squeezes throughout the day, performing 10 sets of Kegels three times a day, or first exercising twice daily before progressing to three times daily.
Follow These Tips to Perfect Your Kegel Exercises Sessions
You need to take care of the following four things before you begin your Kegel exercises.
Here are four positions you could try to get the hang of Kegel exercises:
- Lying down
- Kneeling on all fours
For maximum strength, you should ideally practice all four postures each day. Squeeze and raise from the vaginal opening up toward your cervix when performing Kegels. Some compare this tightening action to riding the highest floor of an elevator. Take the elevator back down after you have given your muscles a chance to unwind.
Points to Remember
- Make sure your bladder is empty before attempting Kegels.
- Locate the right muscles with the help of the tips given above.
- Count to 5 to 6 and pull up and squeeze your pelvic muscles.
- Relax them for a count of 5 or 6.
- Repeat this set 10 to 15 times.
- Try to do these repetitions at least thrice a day.
Variations of Kegel Exercises
- Tighter and faster hold for a longer period that progresses to even stronger holds and squeezes
- Holds to target leaking during yelling, laughing, coughing, or exercising
- Stimulating coughs or incorporating different words or letters while doing Kegels
Common Mistakes to Avoid
- Relaxing your pelvic muscles is as important as squeezing them. Do not skip that part.
- Kegel exercises train your pelvic muscles to clamp down on command which means you might have difficulty clamping down if you overdo the exercises.
- Remember not to tighten your adjacent muscles as it can interfere with the action of your vaginal walls. Squeezing the wrong muscles can pressurize your bladder.
A Final Word on What are Kegel Exercises
It takes some time to notice a significant increase in muscular strength by practicing Kegels, just as with any workout routine. Within three to six weeks of consistently performing these exercises, you may begin to feel a difference in your bladder strength with less time between each bathroom trip and unwanted accidents. But remember that the outcomes of Kegel exercises vary from person to person.
If Kegels alone don’t relieve your problems, further therapies, including physical therapy or surgery, may be recommended. These exercises are typically prescribed as the first line of treatment. However, if you get the hang of it, Kegels are usually simple to integrate into your daily life.