Let’s face it: being female comes with some physiological challenges. Internal organs, including the uterus and bladder, are supported by muscles and other tissues known as the pelvic floor.
Many factors can cause a weakening of the pelvic floor, including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, continuous high impact aerobic activity and being overweight.
Whether it’s yoga, Pilates or just advice from your gynecologist, nearly every woman has heard the term “Kegels.” But do you know why this simple, private exercise is so important?
It’s because weak pelvic floor muscles often result in urinary incontinence, including the inconvenient stress incontinence of peeing a little when you laugh or jump.
Kegel exercises are a great way to help you prevent or control urinary incontinence. First developed to help women during pregnancy, Kegels are designed to strengthen the muscles used to control and support the bladder, urethra, uterus, and rectum.
Here’s the correct way to get the most out of this simple exercise:
One of the most important factors in kegel exercise is to locate the correct muscles. It does take some diligence on your part to identify your pelvic floor muscles and learn how to contract and relax then.
To identify your pelvic floor muscles stop urination in midstream. Don’t make a habit of using Kegel exercises to start and stop your urine stream. Not emptying your bladder could cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Once you can identify these muscles, tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for ten seconds at a time, relaxing for ten seconds between contractions.
To make sure you are getting the best benefit from your efforts try to isolate the pubococcygeus muscle. Be careful not to flex the muscle in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere. I mean anywhere -- at the office, while driving or in the grocery store line.
As with any exercise you will need to give yourself about six weeks to benefit from the activity. But the more you do, the quicker the results. This will be a lifetime activity, and even the elderly can easily do Kegels.
If you’re having trouble doing Kegel exercises, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Your doctor or other health care provider can give you important feedback so that you learn proper technique.
How Gwinnett Medical Center Can Help
As Gwinnett Medical Center’s women’s health navigator, Sheila Warren is available for free wellness consultations. She can answer your health and wellness questions—about labor and lactation support, post-childbearing years, menopause and post-menopause. She can even assist with health-related questions for the children and men in your life. To schedule your free wellness consultation with Sheila, call 678-671-2303.