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What is it? Kegel exercises are exercises to strengthen the pelvic muscles. These exercises involve tightening and relaxing vaginal and rectal muscles. Kegel exercises can make the pelvic muscles stronger and improve bladder control. The bladder is the organ that holds urine.
What are the pelvic muscles?
- Many layers of muscles stretch between your legs. These muscles are attached to the front, back, and sides of your pelvic bones. Most of the pelvic support work is done by 2 pelvic muscles. The larger of the 2 muscles is shaped like a hammock. The other muscle is shaped like a triangle.
- The urethra, bladder, vagina, uterus (womb), and rectum are called pelvic organs. These organs are held in place by pelvic muscles. But they may sag onto one another if the pelvic muscles are not strong.
- The muscles involved in Kegel exercises are the muscles used to control urination and during sex.
What causes weak pelvic muscles? The pelvic muscles are normally tight. But pregnancy, childbirth, or weighing too much may cause the pelvic muscles to weaken. Lifting heavy things or straining while having a BM may weaken the pelvic muscles. Dropping estrogen levels in menopause may cause pelvic muscles to relax and lose tone. Estrogen is a special chemical called a hormone, which affects a woman's monthly period.
How are Kegel exercises done? Kegel exercises can be done any time and anywhere. You can do them in the morning, noon, or night. The exercises can be done when driving, sitting, standing, lying on your back, or taking a bath. A good time to practice Kegel exercises is during bathroom trips. Do these exercises as often as you think about it.
- Contract (tighten) the muscles around your vagina and anus.
- Hold these muscles for a count of 10.
- Slowly release these muscles and relax for a count of 10. Repeat the cycle again.
- Do 3 to 4 sets of 10 contractions every day.
- You may need to start Kegel exercises more slowly, like squeezing and relaxing pelvic muscles 4 seconds each. You can increase your count as your muscle tone improves.
- To be sure you are using the right muscles, put 1 finger in your vagina when lying down. Contract your vaginal muscles. You will feel the muscle tightening around your finger.
- You may want to keep a Kegel exercise diary. Write down how many times a day you do Kegels and how many exercises you do each time.
Are there other things I should know about Kegel exercises?
- It may take 3 to 6 months after starting Kegel exercises to see a difference in bladder control. But you may notice improved bladder control after a few weeks. Do not stop doing Kegel exercises until you have talked to your caregiver. Kegel exercises are useful for the rest of your life.
- Tighten your pelvic muscles before sneezing, lifting, or jumping.
- Kegel exercises may improve your sexual response because the exercises tighten the vaginal muscles.
- Men may also use Kegel exercises to improve bladder control.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan you must learn about pelvic muscles and Kegel exercises. You can then discuss the treatment options with caregivers. Work with them to decide what care will be used to treat your weak pelvic muscles. You always have the right to refuse treatment.