It’s the most intimate part of you. The part that made you a mother. The part that makes you a woman.
It’s your vagina, and it’s not functioning like it used to.
You find yourself wearing sanitary napkins every day. You’re choosing loose pants and skirts over your favorite form-fitting jeans. You avoid activities that might put stress on your lower abdomen.
Anything to prevent embarrassing bladder leakage that seems to be a daily occurrence.
Now it’s impacting your relationship. You’re experiencing vaginal dryness and sex often hurts.
You don’t have to live with this. Kegel exercises may well be the answer for you, but only if you do them correctly.
Read on to learn the seven top tips for optimizing your Kegels!
What’s Causing Your Symptoms?
If you’re looking into Kegel’s, then you’re probably experiencing symptoms that you may not feel comfortable discussing, even with your doctor.
You may be losing control of your bladder or even your bowels. You may be passing gas.
You may be experiencing pain, not only during intercourse, but throughout your day.
But take heart! You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
The symptoms you are experiencing are likely caused by a very common condition known as pelvic organ prolapse (POP).
In POP, the muscles of the pelvic floor weaken, causing the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus, and bowel, to drop.
This can result not only in pain or the loss of bladder or bowel control, but also in feelings of heaviness, fullness, or pressure in the abdomen.
You may experience increased urgency and frequency in voiding your bladder or bowels, and you may feel unable to empty completely.
The fact is that POP is not just uncomfortable. It can severely diminish your quality of life.
How Did I Get POP?
POP is an extremely common condition.
Current estimates indicate that up to 50% of women may experience some degree of pelvic organ prolapse, resulting in more than 300,000 surgeries per year in the United States alone.
POP can result from any number of causes, from genetics to aging.
The most common causes, however, are vaginal childbirth, chronic constipation, or a history of strain on the pelvic muscles. Activities that require frequent heavy lifting, for example, can stretch and severely weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor.
What Are Kegel Exercises and How Can They Help?
Kegel exercises work by getting to the root of the problem. Literally.
Their function is to strengthen the pelvic floor so that the pelvic organs will be better supported, reducing or eliminating POP symptoms.
Kegel exercises take many forms, but they all consist of the same basic action: squeezing and tightening the pelvic muscles to build their strength.
Whether you have experience with Kegels or this will be your first time trying them, these seven tips are sure to help you get the most benefit from your Kegels.
1. Start with the Pee Exercise
The next time you go to the bathroom, try stopping your urine flow midstream.
Not only is this a Kegel exercise itself, but it will also help you gauge the strength or weakness of your pelvic muscles by how much difficulty you have with this.
You can repeat this several times to get a few quick Kegels in. Don’t make it a daily habit, however, because this can lead to urinary tract infections.
Also, if you have any underlying disorders that make it difficult to void your bladder, such as interstitial cystitis or chronic UTIs, you may want avoid this exercise.
2. Do Them Often
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that you can do them anytime, anywhere, and no one will be any the wiser!
So practice tightening and squeezing your pelvic muscles anytime the thought occurs to you, whether you’re at home watching a movie, sitting in a boring business meeting, or driving the kids to school.
You’ll not only begin to experience a reduction in your POP symptoms, but you’ll also have a funny little secret all to yourself!
3. Build Up Slowly
If you’re new to Kegels or if the prolapse is severe, these exercises may be challenging at first, but don’t give up.
Instead, work on slowly increasing your strength. Ten repetitions equal one set of exercises, so try to complete at least one full set each time you do your exercises.
If you can’t complete a full set at first, don’t worry. Just keep building up until you can.
And when that gets easy for you, ramp up the difficulty level a bit more: add at least another half set.
4. Mix It Up
Kegel exercises are most often done by tightening the pelvic muscles and holding the contraction for a specified amount of time, often for a count of 10.
This is ideal, but if you want to add another level of difficulty and really optimize your Kegels, add in a few short, quick bursts of contraction.
Squeeze and release as hard and as fast as you can. Then return to your standard hold-and-release approach.
Alternating between slow sets and rapid bursts can stimulate the muscles and may promote the formation of new muscle fibers or the strengthening of existing ones.
5. Get the Right Equipment
If you’re all-in with the Kegels, then you should consider adding Kegel or Ben Wa balls to your routine.
Kegel balls come in a variety of weights and sizes. They help to isolate and strengthen the pelvic muscles by requiring the muscles to strongly contract to hold the balls inside.
6. Get Moving
Adding a regular exercise routine can help you maximize the effectiveness of your Kegels.
Pilates and yoga are especially beneficial for strengthening the abdominal and pelvic muscles, which will only enhance the benefits you get from your daily Kegels.
7. Enlist the Experts
Sometimes it can be difficult to work the appropriate muscles effectively. This is where consulting the experts can be particularly helpful.
Physical therapists, physiologists, or your gynecologist can help you learn to do your Kegels the right way.
There are even biofeedback machines to help you identify the correct muscles and confirm when you are successfully contracting them.
This can help you to learn not only how to do your Kegels but also what your Kegels should feel like when they are done correctly.
Pelvic organ prolapse is a common disorder that can severely diminish your quality of life.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Kegel exercises can be enormously effective in decreasing the symptoms of POP, restoring both your confidence and your intimate life.
Please visit our website to learn more about POP, vaginal health, and how we can help!