As a woman, maintaining the integrity of your pelvic floor is an important part of maintaining your overall heath, regardless if you are approaching childbearing or passing through menopause. Understanding the role your pelvic floor plays in your health and wellness may give you the motivation to keep it toned and healthy.
At its most basic level, a Kegel exercise consists of tightening and releasing the PC muscle. If you are unfamiliar with the action of your PC muscle, you can isolate it by stopping the flow of your urine midstream
Your pelvic floor is a band of muscles in the shape of a figure eight that surrounds your vaginal opening and rectum. These muscles act as a kind of hammock that supports the organs of your pelvic region, such as your uterus and bladder. The pubococcygeus muscle (PC muscle) is a part of your overall pelvic floor muscular makeup.
This muscle helps you control the flow of your urine, and its strength is also often associated with the increased ability to orgasm.
Over the course of a woman's life, the hammock of pelvic muscles becomes stretched and can loose its integrity from hormonal changes and the aging process. The integrity of the pelvic floor can also be jeopardized by other life factors such as:
A weakened pelvic floor presents several health risks for women:
To help avoid the problems that arise from a weak pelvic floor, most gynecologists recommend that all women from their childbearing years onward should exercise the muscles of the pelvic floor by doing Kegel exercises.
At its most basic level, a Kegel exercise consists of tightening and releasing the PC muscle. If you are unfamiliar with the action of your PC muscle, you can isolate it by stopping the flow of your urine midstream (though you shouldn't regularly perform Kegels while going the bathroom).
Once you identify your PC muscle, tighten the muscle as you exhale, which ensures that you aren't actually using the surrounding muscles of your thighs and buttocks. All you need to do is tighten and release this muscle, and you're doing Kegels.
There are many different Kegel variations that you can try:
Even though well woman care providers recommend that you do Kegel exercises everyday, Kegels are at least convenient. You can do them anytime, anywhere, without anyone ever knowing the difference. Picking a specific time of day can help you remember to do them. Some examples include:
It doesn't matter where or when you do your Kegels - just try to do them everyday.
If you are doing Kegels because you suffer from urinary incontinence, it might take two to three months of practicing the exercises to help reduce your incontinence. But even though your symptoms aren't instantly relieved, you will likely be surprised and encouraged at how rapidly your muscles strengthen.
For example, you may find that you are only able to do 50 basic Kegels at first, or only able to do the first half of an elevator Kegel, and that's okay. Just do what you can and you will find that with a little practice you can challenge yourself as you gain more muscular control.
Kegel exercises, when done regularly, can help reverse some incontinence, prevent pelvic organ prolapse, and increase sexual sensation. They are the important tool that helps keep your pelvic floor strong for life.
If you have questions about Kegels, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, or pregnancy and birth, don't hesitate to call and schedule an appointment with Gainesville-based gynecologists at All About Women.