You’ve probably not thought of how much pressure is put on the pelvic floor during pregnancy and how much your pelvic muscles have to stretch while giving birth! The pelvic muscles are responsible for supporting the bladder, uterus, and rectum. After you give birth, if you notice a bit of leaking urine while coughing or laughing, it means you need to strengthen your pelvic muscles.
One of the best ways to do this is by doing Kegel exercises during and after pregnancy. Let’s take a look at what exactly Kegel exercises are.
What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are done to strengthen the pelvic floor. Other than supporting the bladder, uterus, and rectum, the pelvic muscles help to control the flow of urine, contractions of the vagina, and anal sphincter.
Kegel exercises were named after Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist who invented the Kegel perineometer (an instrument to measure the strength of the pelvic floor muscle’s voluntary contractions). As the term suggests, he was the one responsible for introducing Kegel exercises.
The main aim of Kegel exercises is to contract and relax the pelvic floor several times throughout the day. The great thing about the Kegel exercise is that it can be done at any time of the day and anywhere. Once you get into the practice of doing these exercises, it can be done whether you are watching TV, while you are traveling, or simply as a part of your exercise routine.
How to do Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises are simple and easy to do. Imagine you are stopping the flow of urine. All you need to do is to contract and relax your pelvic floor muscles. Start the exercise in a lying-down position. Later on, when you get more practice, you can sit or stand up and do the exercise.
To start with, first, find the right muscles. Locating the correct muscles in the pelvic area is important for Kegel exercises. One way of finding the right muscles is by inserting your finger into your vagina and squeezing your muscles tight. If you feel a sensation of tightening around your finger, then these are the right muscles. At the same time imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine or trying to stop the passing of gas.
To do the exercise, squeeze your pelvic muscles and hold it for several seconds. Relax the muscles and repeat. Alternatively, you can quickly tighten and relax your muscles continuously for a few times. Or hold it for three seconds and then release for three seconds. You may only be able to hold it for one or two seconds initially but as your muscles get stronger, it can go up to 10 seconds. Repeat this up to 10 times. You will slowly notice that your muscles and the contractions get stronger.
As your muscles get stronger, gradually increase the intensity of the exercise by increasing the duration of each squeeze or the number of times you do it in a day. The more you practice Kegels exercise, the stronger your muscles will get. You will notice bladder and bowel control as soon as 6 to 12 weeks after starting the exercise.
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises can be done at any time but it is beneficial especially during and after pregnancy. Here are some advantages of Kegel exercises:
- Increases strength of pelvic floor- Kegel exercises are the best for increasing strength in your pelvic floor. When you give birth vaginally, a pelvic organ prolapse can occur. This is when the uterus, urethra, and sometimes the bowel, too, can collapse into the vagina. When the pelvic floor muscles are weakened because of pregnancy and vaginal delivery, they may not be able to support the pelvic organs.
- Improves bladder control- During pregnancy and especially after delivery, you may have noticed that you cannot control your bladder as before. You may also experience leaking when you cough, laugh, jog, or sneeze. When you have the strong urge to pass urine or pee even before you can reach the bathroom, this is known as bladder incontinence. Kegel exercises help with bladder incontinence and are the best solution for this problem.
- Reduces fecal incontinence- Similar to urine incontinence, Kegel exercises help to control fecal incontinence which is the lack of ability to control the movement of stool. Accidents can occur and your stool may leak before you make it to the bathroom in time.
Tips to Remember When Doing Kegel Exercises
Some helpful tips to remember when doing Kegel exercises are:
- To benefit from Kegel exercises, do it regularly.
- Don’t do Kegels while urinating. This might prevent your bladder from emptying fully.
- Keep your abdomen, thighs, and buttocks relaxed and don’t hold your breath or strain yourself.
- If you feel too much pain or soreness after or while doing Kegel exercises, stop and consult your doctor.
Kegel exercises help you to have a smoother labor and birthing process. Doing the exercises consistently helps you to control the pelvic muscles during labor and birth. After delivery, it helps with healing the perineal tissues. If you face any issues while doing Kegels, speak to your doctor about it.