Pregnant women who do regular Kegel exercises can enjoy the benefit of easier labour. Kegels exercises are done to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy can help you develop the ability to control your muscles during labour and delivery. These exercises are also useful to prevent incontinence (particularly for women who have had children) and haemorrhoids (Piles). In addition, some people feel that these exercises heighten the pleasure when having sex. The best thing about Kegel exercises is that they can be done anywhere without anybody else knowing it.
What are the pelvic floor muscles?
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that wrap around like a hammock on the underside of the bladder and rectum. They support the bladder, uterus and rectum.
What is stress incontinence?
Stress incontinence is when there is a leakage of urine when you cough, laugh, or when you exercise (like jump or run) due to weak pelvic floor muscles. One of the commonest reason for the pelvic floor muscles to become weak is childbirth. Regular Kegel exercises after childbirth can prevent stress incontinence developing later in life.
How to do Kegels exercises?
It is important that you exercise the correct muscles. There are few techniques with which you can identify the pelvic floor muscles
- Imagine you are passing urine and trying to stop the stream. You will notice that the muscles in the front part of your pelvis contracting. These are the ones to strengthen.
- Sit in a chair with your knees slightly apart. Try to squeeze the muscles just above the entrance to the back passage like stopping the wind escaping. You should feel some movement in the muscle. Don’t move your buttocks or legs.
- If you are not sure that you are exercising the right muscles, put a couple of fingers into your vagina. Try to squeeze the fingers and the muscles at work are the pelvic floor muscles.
Method of the Kegel exercises:
You can do the exercises every day. Empty your bladder before starting these exercises.
- Once you have located your pelvic floor muscles, contract these muscles slowly for 5-10 seconds, then relax, repeating 10-20 times. These are called slow pull-ups.
- Then do the same exercise quickly for a second or two. Repeat at least five times. These are called fast pull-ups.
- Keep repeating the five slow pull-ups and the five fast pull-ups for five minutes.
- Breathe normally during the exercises
- Try not to move your leg, buttock, or abdominal muscles during the exercises.
- Try to do these exercises for about five minutes at least three times a day, and preferably 6-10 times a day.
- You can do these exercises during your normal day-to-day activities i.e when answering the phone, during driving, while watching TV etc.
- After few weeks the muscles will start to feel stronger. You will find that you can squeeze the pelvic floor muscles for much longer than when you started.
It takes time, effort and practice to become good at these exercises. If you are not used to Kegel exercises then try to do the exercises as often as described above for the first three months or so. This will strengthen up the muscles. Thereafter, a five-minute spell of exercises once or twice a day should keep the muscles strong and toned up which may help to prevent incontinence from developing in later life. If you are not sure that you are doing the correct exercises, ask a doctor, physiotherapist for advice.
Other ways of exercising pelvic floor muscles
- Vaginal cones. These are small plastic cones that you put inside your vagina for about 15 minutes, twice a day. The cones come in a set of different weights. At first, the lightest cone is usedd. You need to use your pelvic floor muscles to hold the cone in place. So, it helps you to exercise these muscles. Once you can hold on to the lightest one comfortably, you move up to the next weight, and so on.
- Electrical stimulation. There are special electrical devices available which are usedd to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles with the aim of making them contract and become stronger.
- Biofeedback. This is a technique to help you make sure that you exercise the correct muscles. For this, a small device is insertedd into your vagina when you are doing the exercises. When you squeeze the right muscles, the device makes a noise (or some other signal such as a display on a computer screen) to let you know that you are squeezing the correct muscles.