The Importance of Kegels Before, During, and After...
Having strong pelvic floor muscles is incredibly important for every woman - regardless of age or maternal status.
Kegel exercises help to restore and strengthen the muscles that surround and support the bladder, uterus, rectum, and urethra - your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles are also known as your pubococcygeal muscles.
If you need to get straight to the benefits: kegels help ward off incontinence, and strengthen the vaginal walls to maintain good sexual health.
What are Kegels?
As we've mentioned before, kegels are the exercises we use to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This can be done by men as well as women!
How do we do them? First, let's discover which muscles we're trying to target...
How to Target the Pelvic Floor Muscles
The following method isn't a good way to do your kegels as it only targets a specific area; however, in doing the following, you can discover how to target specific muscles.
- While sitting on the toilet, relax your muscles to start a stream of urine. Note the muscles that you are relaxing,
- Mid-stream, squeeze those muscles upwards -- try to draw them up and in. Your urine flow should slow down or stop completely. Do not move your legs while doing this and try not to use your ab muscles.
- Relax your muscles again to start the stream of urine,
- Repeat as much as you can until you're done on the toilet!
Kegel exercises will target the same muscles that allow you to slow or stop your urine stream as well as the muscles that help to prevent passing gas at awkward moments! Think of using those muscles both at the same time. Now, once you have a general understanding of which muscles you are targeting, lay down and try...
- Lay with your hand over your lower abdomen, and make sure that you're not using your stomach muscles while doing your kegels,
- Try pulling your pelvic floor muscles up and in and hold for as long as you can. It is recommended that you hold it for ten seconds, then slowly release, but that isn't always possible when you are first starting out!
- Slowly release the muscles and rest for 10-20 seconds,
- Pull the muscles up and in again -- you should be able to feel the muscles being 'pulled' up.
- Repeat for as many repetitions as you can handle.
Am I Doing Kegels Properly?
Probably! One good way to tell is to insert one of your fingers into your vagina (Hey, don't be shy! You own that part of your body, too... Just think of it as picking your nose... Not that you do that, right?) Make sure to wash your hands before... And after. With a finger *ahem* inside, try squeezing your muscles. You should be able to feel the muscles tighten around your finger - even if it's just by a little bit.
As you continue to do kegels, you will notice a difference within a few weeks or a few months - they will become much easier to do.
You may feel a surge of... How shall we say this... Uncomfortable, invisible sex? It may feel uncomfortable at first, because you are moving muscles around inside of your vagina. Don't worry - the feeling will become less (or less uncomfortable, at least) as you continue to do the exercises daily.
How Often Should I Do Kegels?
As often as you can handle. We suggest that you do kegels a couple of times a day, every day. Make it a part of your routine -- stop lights make for a great "workout session", for example.
So... Why Are Kegels Important?
Because peeing yourself is never fun :D
Okay, back to being serious... Keeping your pelvic floor muscles healthy and toned is very important, especially if you are pregnant, coming out of a pregnancy, or if you are older. Urinary stress incontinence and a loss of bladder control is not fun. To help prevent this, kegels should be done. Especially if you are nearing your third trimester and feel a cold coming on. One big belly plus one heck of a sneeze equals to wishing that you were wearing pantyliners ;)
Muscle tone improves sex life before, during, and after a pregnancy. If you are in your late 30s and have not given birth, you should begin kegels - with time, your vaginal muscles will relax and kegels can help counter that.
Doing kegels also helps to increase blood flow to the vagina and the rectum - this can help keep hemorrhoids under control and possibly help to prevent them, and will also help to speed up the healing of post-partum tears, and episiotomies.
It's Not Working!
Give yourself time. Like other muscles, pelvic floor muscles will take time to strengthen. The hardest part is remembering to do them, so working them into part of your daily routine will help greatly!