Kegel exercises, or pelvic floor exercises, are designed to improve the function of your pelvic floor muscles. They are usually recommended for women of childbearing age and beyond because pregnancy and childbirth place a particular strain on these muscles. An increase in weight and menopause can also impact on the strength of these muscles.
Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which support the bladder, urethra and rectum. If these muscles are weakened it can lead to bladder incontinence, prolapsed bladder and in more severe cases bowel incontinence. The majority of women will first realise their pelvic floor muscles are weakened when they notice a small amount of urine escapes when they exercise, sneeze or cough. To prevent this and to improve the function of your pelvic floor muscles you should practice Kegel exercises several times a week. If you are able to do this before you become pregnant you will be in a better position to avoid or minimise these issues.
For Kegel exercises to be effective it is important that you do them correctly. You need to practice squeezing your pelvic floor muscles and holding them for a few seconds, then releasing for a few seconds and repeating several times. It can be difficult to know whether you are squeezing the right muscles so it is a good idea to seek advice from your doctor, midwife or physiotherapist who can help. Many maternity hospitals will have a physiotherapist visit you in hospital who will give you information on how to do Kegel exercises properly. It will probably take 6-8 weeks before you start to see an improvement so don’t be disheartened if your pelvic floor muscles take some time to improve.
Kegel exercises are the most effective way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and are something that every woman should learn to do correctly and practice consistently.