Chances are you’ve heard of pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels. Pelvic floor exercises may help with numerous conditions relating to the body systems located in your pelvis, such as your reproductive organs, urinary tract, and bowels. Physicians often recommend pelvic floor exercises for women suffering from various types of urinary incontinence, women at risk for prolapse, women experiencing discomfort during sex, and women recovering from childbirth.
The Pelvic Floor
A group of muscles resides in the pelvic floor between your tailbone and the pubic bone. This group of muscles supports your bladder and bowel, along with your reproductive organs. We don’t often think of these muscles, especially if there’s nothing wrong down there. However, they work as a system and if one part of the system isn’t functioning properly you may experience any number of symptoms or conditions as a result.
Several sphincters, circular muscles that constrict and relax, reside in the pelvic floor: around your urethra, vagina, and anus. As these circular muscles contract, the organs lift and the sphincters tighten the urethra or vagina. Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles allows you to relieve yourself.
Weakened Pelvic Floor: Causes and Symptoms
According to the Better Health Channel, women experience many causes and symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor. Many of the symptoms of a weakened pelvic floor aren’t only uncomfortable, but sometimes embarrassing. Unfortunately for women, several natural life events may cause a weakened pelvic floor. One of the most common causes of a weakened pelvic floor in women is pregnancy. The weight of the uterus during pregnancy puts a great deal of pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, sometimes causing them to weaken and lessen their ability to contract and relax when needed.
Other causes include high-impact exercise, chronic constipation, long-term or chronic cough, certain surgeries, and reduced estrogen due to menopause. Postpartum mothers can also be at risk due to joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that stay loose for up to three months after childbirth or weaning.
Symptoms often include various types of urinary incontinence, such as rarely reaching the restroom on time, leaking a little urine when sneezing, laughing or bending over, decreased sexual pleasure or sensation, or passing wind when lifting.
Do This, Don’t Do That: Tips for Perfecting Your Kegels
Do talk to your physician - either your family doctor or OB/GYN. Pelvic floor exercises are ideal for a number of conditions, but they may make other conditions or symptoms worse.
Don’t decide on your own to do Kegels without the recommendation of your physician.
Do find your pelvic floor. The easiest way to find your pelvic floor is to stop the flow of urine. We subconsciously use our pelvic floor muscles every time we hold our urine if we can’t make it to the restroom and even at night.
Don’t regularly stop the flow of urine as it may cause harm to your bladder. Once you’ve consciously stopped the flow of urine midstream you can do your exercises away from the toilet.
Do start slow. Squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor and hold for a few seconds, shooting for 10 to 15 times three times per day.
Don’t try to hold squeezing the muscles for longer periods of time than is comfortable. Like other exercises, work yourself up to longer amounts of time. You can also work up to adding more than 10 to 15 exercises in your reps.
Do sit comfortably or find another comfortable position to exercise in. Being uncomfortable may result in a lack of efficacy or cause unneeded strain on the muscles.
Don’t tighten other groups of muscles while doing your pelvic floor exercises. Ensure your abdomen, legs, and butt are all relaxed.
Do pelvic floor exercises daily, at least three times a day. Like other exercises for other parts of your body, you need to be dedicated.
Do be patient. Pelvic floor exercises often take several weeks before you start noticing results, according to the National Health Service UK.
Pelvic floor exercises are often an excellent treatment that does not require the use of drugs or surgery; however, every woman’s body is different and you may need additional treatments for your symptoms. Speak with your physician and work on a plan to treat your symptoms.