Kegels for Pregnancy, Birth, and Overall Health
I'm sure by now most of us have heard of Kegels, right?
I remember the first time I did was when I was eleven years old and home sick from school for a whole week. My mother is the coolest and let me watch all of the "Sex and the City" episodes on tape. In one such episode, Samantha goes on to talk to the girls about how amazing Kegel exercises are in regards to staying tight (thanks mom).
Only years later did I realize Kegels are beneficial for so much more!
What are Kegels?
Kegels are an exercise that you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles hang like a hammock between your hips to support all of the surrounding organs such as your womb, bladder, and bowels.
Why do them?
These pelvic floor muscles can get weak over time due to things like pregnancy (from your growing baby putting extra weight on the muscles), childbirth, aging, and weight gain. Unfortunately, if these muscles do get weak, it can cause your organs to prolapse and fall down, which leads to incontinence. Not very pleasant, eh?
Kegels to the Rescue!
Not to worry though! That is all super preventable with this simple exercise.
You can find your pelvic floor muscles two ways:
1. Using a clean finger, insert it into your vagina and try to hug your finger. The tighter you can squeeze it the stronger your muscles are. You can try to use two or three fingers even.
2. Stop urinating mid-stream. Only do this to learn how to use the muscles though because it's very bad to hold your pee in.
Try doing it by squeezing in & up. And after each one, relax fully so you don't over-tighten them. This is very good practice for birth! Opening and relaxing those muscles so baby can come down.
If you notice your back, butt, or abdomen is getting sore from these exercises, you're doing them wrong. You should only be engaging these specific muscles. Keep everything else loose.
If you have trouble finding the muscles you can ask your gynaecologist. They're there to help you so don't feel embarrassed! There are also some handy dandy tools on the market specifically for this purpose. They even measure your strength!
To properly execute Kegel exercises trying hold it tight for 3 seconds and do 10 of them. Practice until you can hold it for 10 seconds.
A good goal is to do 3 sets of 10 reps every day.
Because there are two different types of muscles in the pelvic floor, you can work both by doing two types of exercises.
You can do the type mentioned above slowly to work the muscles that contribute to overall long-term strength. And you can do them quickly 25-50 times to strengthen the muscles that are good for sudden things like sneezing and coughing.
Benefits of Kegels
1. Less risk of organ prolapse
2. Easier, shorter labours and deliveries because you can control the muscles
3. Better bladder control
4. Promotes perineum & hemorrhoid healing after birth due to increased blood flow in that area
5. Boosts sex drive (to make them more fun you can practice them during sex)
6. Helps you reach orgasm more easily
7. Keeps you "tight"
8. You can do them any time, any place
Can anyone do Kegels?
For the most part, yes!
Men benefit from Kegel exercises especially as they get older and start having incontinence problems as well. Isn't aging lovely?
If you have some type of problem in that area though, like Vulvodynia or Vaginismus, there are differing schools of thought. Those conditions make that area sore when you try to insert something, which could be caused by extremely tight muscles. Some people recommend doing Kegels, others don't. I say, do what feels right for your own body. Definitely try relaxing those muscles. You can always ask your doctor too if you're unsure about it.
If you are dealing with a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), don't do Kegels, it could make it worse.
So why not take 5-10 minutes every day to do a simple exercise that'll improve your overall health? We cannot ignore the pelvic floor!
And most importantly, while exercising these muscles, don't forget to breathe!