Kegel exercises are very helpful in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles of your body. There are many factors which can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. Factors like childbirth, surgery, aging, constipation, chronic coughing etc. New mothers especially experience weakening of their pelvic floor muscles post delivery. Kegel exercises are very beneficial for women pre and post childbirth to prevent problems like urinary incontinence.
Kegel exercises have a few particular steps which you have to follow. These include finding your pelvic floor muscles, correcting your technique, maintaining your focus and repeating regularly. Kegel exercises should be done regularly to get the results. Just as there are several advantages of doing this exercise, there are a few disadvantages too.
What are Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises are named after Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist who invented these kinds of exercises for relaxation of the pelvic muscles. The pelvic floor muscles support the uterus, bladder and other organs. These muscles essentially control the urinary flow of our body and also vaginal and anal contraction. The main motive of a kegel exercise is to relax the pelvic muscles by alternation clenching and relaxing. These are easy to do and can be done anywhere anytime.
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How to do them?
The first step of doing kegels is to correctly pinpoint the position of your pelvic floor muscles. You can find it with emptying your bladder and then try to stop your urine mid-flow. Those muscles that you clench unknowingly are your pelvic floor muscles. But do not practice kegels with a full bladder or develop a habit of stopping your urine midway. This can cause urinary tract infections.
Once you have pinpointed the right muscles, you can do these exercises in any position. But it is preferable if you do it lying down at the start.
The technique of doing this involves tghtening your pelvic muscles, holding the contraction for 5 seconds and then relaxing for 5 seconds. You can try this for at least five times at first. Then you can increase the time of contraction and relaxation to 10 seconds. Keep an aim of doing at least three sets with 10 repetitions each day.
Maintaining your focus is very important while doing kegel exercises. You have to be careful about tightening only your pelvic floor muscles, not any other muscle. Do not flex your abdominal muscles, or the muscles in your buttocks and thighs. And avoid holding breath during this exercise. Free breathing improves the focus and helps you relax. This improves the efficiency of your movements as well.
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So, why should you do Kegels?
There are a number of advantages of kegel exercises, especially for women during and after pregnancy.
During pregnancy you gain a lot of weight. Sometimes your pelvic floor muscles are not able to support the weight fully. During labor also the pelvic muscles are stretched to a limit. This can cause muscle tear. Stretching and tearing of these muscles generally cause mild to fatal urinary incontinence in women.
Kegel exercises are a solid way to prevent bladder problems. Kegels strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and thus help prevent diminished bladder control mostly seen in women post childbirth. Kegels also help in preventing stool incontinence which also affects post childbirth mostly. Starting your kegels early in pregnancy will prepare your muscles for the coming labor or surgery. This will result in a smooth and safe delivery for your baby. Doing kegels can also ensure shorter labor.
These exercises also prevent any kind of hemorrhoids. They can also speed up the healing process post an episiotomy. The exercises improve blood circulation to the rectum and vagina. Improved blood circulation heals the surgical wound a lot faster. They also contribute in developing healthy vaginal muscle.
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- While doing kegel exercises, if you feel pain or discomfort in your abdomen or back it means you are doing it wrong. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your doctor or professional trainer.
- Make sure you don’t overdo the exercises. If you put too much strain on your muscles, the muscles will become too tired. It can cause excess urine leakage as well. This will ultimately not give you any result.
- Kegels can prove harmful if you already have tight pelvic floor muscles. Contraction of the muscles will make it all the more tighter, thus making the situation worse for you. You must get your pelvic floor evaluated by a trained professional to see whether your muscles are tight already or not.
- Some medical professionals are of the opinion that doing kegel exercises can actually make you weak.
- During kegel exercises, take care to avoid doing just one squeeze. This can adversely affect the pelvic muscles.
- You must never hold your breath while performing these exercises. Holding the breath can put excess pressure on your pelvic floor which is actually harmful.
- While you practice kegel exercises, you must avoid other physically strenuous activities. Activities like weightlifting, running or jumping can put unwanted pressure on the pelvic floor muscles. Even doing abdominal crunches can be harmful for you. It is better to avoid other activities while you are on your kegel schedule.
- It is critical that you never do kegels while urinating. Frequent stopping of the urinary flow will push the urine back towards the kidney. This can cause severe health problems.
Kegel exercises are beneficial in preventing and treating a lot of bladder related problems. For pregnant women and new mums, doing kegels is a sure shot way to prevent and control urinary incontinence. Kegels also ensure safe and smooth delivery if you start exercising from the early stages of your pregnancy. You can include kegels in your daily routine for your entire life. This will help keep your muscles healthy and toned. Though it can be helpful, kegel exercises should not be done if you already have a tight pelvic floor. This can cause more harm than good. Always consult a trained therapist to help you in your exercises to get better results.
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