Use it Or Lose it – Kegel Exercises
By Kelli Young, Occupational Therapist, Sex Therapist and Couple and Family Therapist
The Kegel (named after Dr. Arnold Kegel) is the name for the exercise used to strengthen the pubococcygeus (PC) muscles that make up the pelvic floor. These muscles act like a hammock that supports pelvic organs: the bladder, urethra, uterus, and bowel.
Why should women do Kegel exercises?
Factors such as pregnancy, childbirth, pelvic surgery (such as a cesarean section), being overweight, and the normal effects of aging can result in weakening of the PC muscles. When these pelvic floor muscles weaken, the pelvic organs can descend and bulge into the vagina, a condition referred to as pelvic organ prolapse. This condition can be associated with significant pelvic pressure and discomfort, and can contribute to leakage of urine or feces. The PC muscles are like any other muscles in the body-If they do not get a regular “work out” they become weak and eventually atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is a common problem for menopausal women. So, this really is a “use it or lose it” phenomenon! Doing Kegel exercises regularly can help reduce the risk of urinary/bowel leakage and incontinence. Kegel exercises can also aid in the prevention and treatment of pelvic organ prolapse. These exercises are commonly recommended for pregnant women to strengthen the pelvic floor in preparation for the later stages of pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. Additionally, maintaining strong pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises can increase sexual satisfaction and orgasmic capacity.
How do I do Kegel exercises?
The first step is finding and isolating the PC muscles. One of the simplest ways to do this is to sit on the toilet and begin to urinate. Try to stop the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you contract in order to stop the flow of urine are the pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this action several times until you become familiar with the sensation of contracting and relaxing these PC muscles. Another technique is to insert a finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze the surrounding muscles. If you are doing this correctly, you will be able to feel your vagina tighten when you squeeze and release as you relax. Once you have identified the PC muscles, you are ready to start your Kegel workout:
- Empty your bladder and get into a comfortable position (sitting or lying down)
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles
- Hold the contraction for four seconds and then relax for four seconds
- Repeat 10 times, three times per day
- Work up to contracting and relaxing for 10 seconds at a time, three times per day
- No special “attire” required
The beauty of Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere at any time. You don’t need to belong to a gym or own any fancy outfits in order to do them, and you won’t even break a sweat! Only you and your vagina will know you’re exercising!