It’s not something you hear frequently, but Kegel exercises are vitally important to supporting and strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. So, what are the pelvic floor muscles?
Pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles, three layers in fact, that support your uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. They also play a critical role in pregnancy. As women age and/or bear children, these muscles can weaken. Weak pelvic floor muscles put you at risk for things like bladder leaking or incontinence, passing gas at inopportune times, unable to regulate bowel movements, organ prolapse and can even affect orgasms.
These groups of muscles are so important that we now have physical therapists who specialize in helping people strengthen their pelvic floor. Social media is littered with influencers touting their hack to improve these muscles as well.
Let’s start with the basics, they are pretty simple. Kegels are all about contracting and releasing the pelvic floor. Finding the right muscles is easy to do when you go to the bathroom. As you begin to urinate, see if you can stop the flow for a few seconds. Doing this means you have tapped into the right set of muscles. In fact, anytime you go to the bathroom is a great time to do a few Kegels.
It’s a good idea to practice this at other times as well. They can be done while sitting at your desk, standing in line, or in the car running errands. 10-15 repetitions is ideal, at least 3 times a day. It takes some patience and focus at first, since it is not a set of exercises we usually work.
In some cases, doing Kegel exercises is not enough to strengthen the muscles but there are other options. Vaginal cones are inserted into the vagina and you use muscle contractions to keep the cone in place. Biofeedback is another tool used by physicians. A pressure sensor is placed in the vagina or rectum and contraction of the muscles is monitored. This helps you see what muscles are being worked and to what degree. Sometimes, the problem is having the muscles fully relax. This monitoring will help you see what treatment is needed.
If you are still experiencing difficulty with incontinence, leaking or other issues related to the pelvic floor muscles, make sure you seek out help from your provider at Madison Women’s Clinic. There are medications that can be used and in some cases, surgery is necessary. Making Kegels and habit now, can prevent unwanted issues in the future.