“Have you tried Kegels yet?” An anonymous comment from an online support group for new mothers caught Indu’s attention. It has been two months since her delivery, and Indu is yet to pick up the pieces from her first pregnancy and childbirth. As an expecting mother, Indu was intimidated by the thought of childbirth, especially due to the reminders from relatives of her ticking biological clock (she is 36). She did want a child but was waiting to be mentally ready for the past few years. After her delivery, everyone surrounding her stopped bickering about the “incompleteness” of her marriage, and she was finally relieved. Soon after, however, she realized that her body does not want her to be relieved yet. Urinary incontinence(involuntary urination) was her new foe, and amidst the bliss of motherhood, she almost forgot how her panties got wet every hour. Weeks later, when she posted the query on the online forum, she learned a lot about her condition from hundreds of new mothers and how they dealt with it with the help of Kegel exercises.
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The role of the pelvic floor in women
The pelvic floor refers to the collection of muscles that stretch from the front of your pelvis to your tailbone. It supports your abdominal, reproductive, and excretory organs and helps them stay intact. It also forms passages and holes for the urethra, anus, and vagina and controls their movements. In addition, it plays a crucial role in female sexual function- the pelvic muscles contract rhythmically as you orgasm.
Though the pelvic floor has the same purpose in male and female anatomies, it has more roles in women, owing to pregnancy and childbirth. As your abdomen expands during pregnancy or when the baby is pushed during childbirth, there are chances that your pelvic floor weakens. Though it is natural, prolonged weakness in the pelvic floor could result in urinary incontinence, uncontrolled bowel movements, organ prolapse, and decreased or impossible sexual function. A healthy pelvic floor acts as a hammock that holds your vital organs in place and that which is under your control.
If you suspect having a weak pelvic floor, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.
What are Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises, also called Kegels, are simple tensing and releasing exercises performed on the pelvic muscles. Both men and women can do them with almost no difference in technique. Developed in 1948 by American gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel, these exercises were originally used to control incontinence in women who have undergone labor. Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor and can reap many benefits, such as prevention of urinary and fecal continence, improved defecation, increased sexual function and satisfaction, and decreased or prevented prolapse of pelvic organs.
Who can benefit from Kegels?
- Aging women
- Pregnant women and women who have previously given birth
- Women with organ prolapse (after a medical consultation)
- Women with incontinence
- Women who struggle to orgasm
- Women who want to enhance their sexual function
Almost anybody can do Kegels. It is an exercise to strengthen your pelvic muscles just like you would with any other part of your body. In fact, people generally overlook their pelvic floor while working on strengthening their muscles, and they can benefit from Kegels. However, there are times when it is not advised. For instance, those with urinary retention issues may have undesirable effects if their pelvic muscles are further strengthened.
How to locate the pelvic muscles?
The most important step in Kegels is working on the right muscles. It is often easy to mistake the muscles in your buttocks, abdomen, or even thighs for your pelvic floor. Some of the ways by which you can locate them are to place a clean finger inside your vagina and tighten it by the vaginal muscles or by stopping urine midstream and feeling the muscles constricting. These muscles comprise the pelvic floor. It is important to remember that stopping urine mid-flow should not be done frequently, as it could result in incomplete emptying of the bladder, leading to urinary tract infections.
If you doubt whether you found the right muscles, you can always seek the help of a medical professional. They may suggest you use vaginal cones- a medical equipment specifically devised to exercise your pelvic floor. The cone is inserted into your vagina, and you can use your pelvic muscles to keep it in place. Alternatively, you can undergo biofeedback training, where your doctor inserts a sensor into your rectum or vagina to monitor your pelvic floor movement.
If you have trouble finding your pelvic muscles, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.
A step-by-step guide to Kegels
Once you have located the right muscles, you can lie on your back, sit on a chair, or choose any comfortable position. Make sure your bladder is empty.
- Contract your pelvic muscles tight for a few seconds and then release. Repeat this a number of times. Do not hold your breath.
- In the beginning, you might only be able to tighten the muscles for two-four seconds. Gradually increase to 10 seconds of squeezing and relaxing. Do not strain yourself. Ensure that only your pelvic floor is being exercised.
- Do the process thrice a day, with 10-15 sets of clench-and-release exercises.
Once you get the hang of it, Kegels are an extremely simple exercise to do. You can do them while you wait in a queue, do daily chores, and even while driving a car. If you follow the routine regularly, you can expect results anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. If there are absolutely no changes or desirable effects after months, you may consult your doctor. A few signs of an improved pelvic floor are:
- Longer duration between bathroom breaks
- Less leakage, resulting in drier underwear and comfort
- Ability to hold longer contractions
- Uninterrupted sleep
If you have any queries on Kegel exercises, you can talk to us, and we will ensure that you get help from a doctor who understands your position. Click on this WhatsApp chat button.
Image credit: www.freepik.com
Gaiety is a postgraduate in English from the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. When she is not writing or editing the content you might have come across on the web, she watches rom-coms or sings along 80’s pop songs with her heart out. Her interests lie in cinema and culinary arts; and everything that brings people together.