Pelvic floor exercises, or Kegel exercises, strengthen your pelvic floor and improve bladder control.
These clench and release exercises can be done anywhere!
Kegel exercises help improve:
- Urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control): You find yourself leaking a few drops of urine when you sneeze, cough or laugh. Or, you have a strong sudden urge to urinate and can’t make it to the toilet in time. Kegel exercises improve bladder control by strengthening bladder muscles or urethral sphincters.
- Urinary retention: Trouble emptying the bladder because of weakened bladder muscles.
- Vaginismus: Better control of the vaginal muscles as vaginismus causes them to contract voluntary or persistently when vaginal penetration (from tampons, sex, etc.) occurs.
- Pelvic floor dyssynergia (pelvic floor dysfunction): The sensation of incomplete emptying of the rectum due to the contracting (instead of relaxing) external anal sphincter and the puborectalis muscle.
- Fecal incontinence: You leak stool regularly.
How do the pelvic floor muscles work?
Your pelvic floor muscles stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone in the front, to the tailbone in the back. They support the bladder, uterus, and colon. Your vagina, urethra, and colon all pass through your pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor muscles can weaken over time due to childbirth, pregnancy, be growing older, constipation, heavy lifting, or chronic coughing. It’s important to keep these muscles strong to regain bladder control and prevent your pelvic organs from lowering into your vagina.
How to flex, down there:
First, find the right muscles. One way is by placing a clean finger inside your vagina and tightening your vaginal muscles around your finger. Another method is by stopping your flow of urine when you sit down to pee. You use your pelvic floor muscles for this action. Make sure you only use this method for learning purposes. Once you get used to how your muscles feel when they contract and relax, don’t start and stop your urine regularly because incomplete emptying of the bladder could cause a UTI. If you have trouble identifying these muscles, speak with your doctor.
Kegel exercises (pelvic floor exercises) Do’s:
- Find a quiet place to sit or lie down if you're new to Kegal exercises.
- Relax your thighs and buttocks
- Squeeze and draw IN the pelvic floor muscles UP inside of you. You should feel a kind of “lift” when you squeeze your muscles.
- Tense the muscles for a count of 3 seconds, then relax for three seconds. Do this for 10 repetitions.
- Try to do three sets of 10 repetitions every day. Modify these exercises if you feel discomfort or pain.
- Don’t hold your breath and bear down. This strains the pelvic floor out, instead of being drawn in.
- Don’t do Kegel exercises on a full bladder. Urinate before.
- Don’t get discouraged when you don’t get immediate results. Like any muscle in your body, it takes weeks, and months to see results when it comes to bladder control.
Keep in mind that some conditions require relaxation techniques and downtraining. If you’re having trouble, don’t be embarrassed to ask your healthcare provider for feedback to ensure you are exercising the correct muscles. They may suggest pelvic floor physical therapy with biofeedback sensors to monitor your progress.
In addition to Kegel exercises, you can better control your bladder by limiting caffeine and alcohol, avoiding artificial sweeteners, and limiting other bladder irritants (tomatoes, citrus, spicy foods, corn syrup). Icon makes pee-proof underwear that will keep you dry and odor-free if a few drops leak out. Your doctor can also work out a bathroom schedule to retrain your bladder.
Just remember, when it comes to pelvic floor muscles and Kegel exercises: Strength comes from within!