Kegel exercises, also called pelvic muscle exercises, are performed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can help prevent incontinence, strengthen vaginal muscles, prevent accidentally passing gas or stool, and improve orgasms.
Women who perform Kegel exercises during pregnancy may have an easier time during childbirth because strengthening the pelvic muscles can help a woman control those muscles during labor and delivery.
Women can start to perform Kegel exercises immediately or as soon as she is able to after birth. Studies have shown that women who regularly performed Kegel exercises significantly reduced the development of urinary and fecal incontinence from pregnancy to postpartum.
Benefits of Kegel exercises after birth include:
- Helps heal pelvic muscles that are weakened, strained, or damaged from delivery by increasing blood circulation to the area
- Bladder control after delivery
- Many women have urinary leakage after childbirth
- Kegels are helpful for women who had a both a vaginal birth or a caesarean section (C-section)
- Makes sex more pleasurable after childbirth
- Stronger pelvic floor muscles can help tone the vagina, which can help increase sensations and orgasms
- Help with loose ligaments
- Pregnancy stretches and loosens ligaments to accommodate the growing baby, which puts pressure on pelvic floor muscles
- Strengthening pelvic floor muscles will help support the ligaments and can help protect against incontinence and vaginal prolapse
- Prevent pelvic organ prolapse
- After multiple deliveries, pelvic floor muscles weaken and may no longer be able to support pelvic organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum
What Are the Pelvic Floor Muscles?
There are three basic muscles used when performing a Kegel:
- Bulbocavernosus (BC) muscle
- Squeezes urine out of the urethra
- This is the main muscle used when performing Kegels
- Pubococcygeus (PC) muscle
- Plays a role in urination and bowel movements
- Forms a large part of the pelvic floor, supporting lower organs
- Contracts during orgasm
- Iliococcygeus (IC) muscle
- Forms part of the strength of the pelvic floor
- Pulls the anus back up after a bowel movement
How Are Kegel Exercises Performed?
Pelvic floor muscles can be identified by attempting to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. They can also be located by inserting a finger into the vagina and attempting to squeeze the muscles around it. These are the muscles that are targeted for Kegel exercises.
- Start with an empty bladder and tighten the pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds, then relax for 5 seconds
- Attempt to do 10 to 20 repetitions (reps) the first day
- Work up to 10 seconds at a time
- Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps daily
- Avoid tightening muscles in the abdomen, thighs, or buttocks and avoid holding your breath
- Do not perform Kegel exercises while urinating as it can weaken the muscle and increase the risk of urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Do not perform Kegel exercises too often as it may cause you to need to strain during urination or bowel movements
- For women who already experience urinary incontinence
- Attempting to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles the moment you cough or sneeze may help prevent urine leakage
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