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When it Comes to Kegels, Consistency Matters

Like most women, you’ve probably heard of Kegel exercises. Maybe you read about them in a magazine or a mom friend mentioned them. But what are Kegels? And do they really work? 

Understanding the purpose of Kegels, along with how to do them properly, may help you get the most out of these therapeutic exercises. 

What Are Kegel Exercises? 

Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that help support the pelvic organs — including the bladder, vagina, rectum and uterus. They’re named after Arnold Kegel, the physician who invented them in 1948. 

When the muscles and ligaments that make up the pelvic floor are stretched or weakened, as a result of childbirth, family history, aging or menopause, the organs above them may be affected. This can lead to pelvic floor disorders like incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. Kegels can help rebuild and repair the pelvic floor muscles, potentially helping to treat or prevent pelvic floor disorders. 

How To Kegel

The great thing about Kegels is that they can be done any time — lying in bed at night, sitting at your desk at work, standing in line at the grocery store — and are quite simple once you get the hang of them. 

Here’s how Kegels are done: 

  • First, find the right muscles. Experts recommend squeezing the muscles you would use if you’re trying to stop yourself from passing gas. If you feel a “pulling” sensation in your pelvic region, you’re probably squeezing the right muscles. 

  • Be careful not to tighten other muscles (like those in your legs or stomach), and don’t hold your breath. 

  • Squeeze and hold for a count of five, then relax for a count of five. Repeat 10 to 15 times, at least three times every day. 

Consistency Is Key 

Just like any other muscles in your body, the muscles that make up your pelvic floor get stronger when you use them and weaker when you don’t. Just doing a Kegel or two every now and then isn’t going to do much for your pelvic floor but committing to five minutes a day performing three sets of 10 to 15 Kegels can make a big difference. Many women with pelvic floor problems like urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage of urine) see improvement in three to six weeks. 

Consistent Kegels may even stop pelvic floor problems before they start. A review of several studies found women who did Kegels before getting pregnant reduced their risk of incontinence both during and after pregnancy. 

Kegel Questions? Talk to Your Doctor 

If you’re worried about remembering to do your Kegels regularly, you can download a smartphone app that allows you to set reminders in addition to providing information and support. 

Still not sure how to do Kegels correctly? Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. With a little professional guidance and a lot of practice, you’ll be amazed at your ability to master this powerfully therapeutic exercise. 

If Kegel exercises do not help improve your symptoms, check with your OB-GYN or primary care physician for a referral to a urogynecologist. 

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