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Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which provide support for the uterus, bladder, and rectum. This is achieved by repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor multiple times a day for several minutes each time. This is similar to exercising other muscles like your biceps and abs.
Gynecologist Arnold Kegel pioneered this exercise technique in the 1940s as non-surgical treatment for genital relaxation. Decades later, pelvic floor training is still widely held as first-line conservative treatment for urinary stress incontinence and female genital prolapse.
Pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, and being overweight are some of the common reasons pelvic floor muscles weaken. You could benefit from performing Kegels if you suffer from stress incontinence such as leaking some urine when sneezing, coughing, or laughing or the sudden urge to urinate and leaking urine (incontinence) as a result of weak pelvic floor muscles.
Symptoms of prolapse may also be decreased by doing daily Kegels. Often doctors recommend Kegels during pregnancy to prevent losing pelvic floor muscle tone and prolapse. A doctor can assess severity of prolapse and check vaginal pressure manually or with a Kegel perineometer.
To identify your pelvic floor muscles, lie on your back and contract your abdomen a couple of inches. Imagine your vagina as a clock with the pubis as 12, your tailbone as 6, the right side is 3 and the left side is 9. Visualize bringing the 12 and the 6 together and then pulling the 3 and the 9 toward the middle of the clock and gently lift.
If it helps, think of picking up a peanut. Focus on tightening only the pelvic floor muscles, not the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or glutes. There should be not movement or rotation of your legs, spine or pelvis. Avoid holding your breath. Continue to breathe normally and freely while you contract the pelvic floor muscles.
• Inhale and then exhale contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Hold the contraction for five seconds, repeating ten times. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for ten seconds at a time, relaxing for ten seconds in between contractions.
• Inhale and then exhale contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Do quick contractions after which you immediately relax the pelvic floor muscles. Initially perform ten reps, working up toward thirty.
Eventually you will be able to contract these muscles while coughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting, etc. to help prevent urine leakage. Regular Kegel exercises should achieve measurable results within eight to twelve weeks. For some women the improvement could be dramatic.