Kegels Exercise: Guide
Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises

Kegels to prevent pregnancy complications

Kegels Exercise Class

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Kegels Exercise: Guide

Contents

What Are Kegels?
Which Are The Correct Muscles To Kegel?
How Do I Perform It?
Does It Help With Incontinence?
What Is a Kegel Exerciser?


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What Are Kegels?

Named after the gynecologist Dr Kegel who invented the exercise in the 1940s, Kegels are pelvic floor exercises used to strengthen the muscles which surround the vagina, rectum and urethra. These pelvic floor muscles often become weakened during pregnancy and in the act of childbirth and delivery, as well as sometimes later in life around the time of menopause. Kegels are a great way to prepare for childbirth (particularly vaginal births) and help to improve muscle tone in the area after delivery. Kegels will also help relieve problems associated with weakened pelvic floor muscles such as prolapsed womb, rectoceles, cystoceles and urethroceles. It may also help with other issues such as hemorrhoids in pregnancy and incontinence. In other situations they may be recommended as part of a hysterectomy recovery plan. The advantage of Kegels is that they can be carried out anywhere, anytime.

Which Are The Correct Muscles To Kegel?

The correct muscles to kegel are those which you use to stop peeing in mid flow. Where women go wrong is by contracting their thigh and stomach muscles, rather than the pelvic floor muscles. Imagine you are urinating, and mid flow, you suddenly have to stop. The muscles you tighten to achieve this are the pelvic floor muscles. If you have any problems identifying the muscles, talk to your OB/GYN or healthcare worker. Biofeedback training, a supervised training with electrical stimulation, may be necessary for women with particularly weak pelvic muscles before they start performing Kegels.

Tip: If you are planning a pregnancy after 35, it is worth paying extra attention to body care.

How Do I Perform It?

There are a variety of Kegel exercises, but all involve alternating contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. In birthing classes, the elevator routine is often used. This is where you start at ground level (completely relaxed). Then, you start to tighten the muscles on the first floor, and hold for several seconds. Gradually pull the muscles tighter and tighter as you go up the levels, pausing at each floor for a few seconds until you reach the 5th floor. Then, gradually release the muscles, moving back down the floors in the same way.

Another simple exercise is to clench the muscles for 10 seconds and repeat 20 times. This can be carried out 3 times a day, totaling 60 contractions. After the first week, you can increase to 35 repetitions, 3 times a day. By the third week increase to 50 repetitions, 3 times a day. The wonderful advantage of these exercises is that they can be carried out while watching TV, or even sitting at your desk in work. You can even practice them during intercourse with your partner!

Do They Help With Incontinence?

According to research by the University of Otago in New Zealand, women can prevent and treat incontinence due to childbirth with regular Kegel exercises. Women who are most at risk of developing incontinence are those who have had a forceps or vaginal delivery of a large baby. It is estimated that one in three deliveries result in incontinence. The researchers reviewed fifteen studies which trialed over 6,000 women. In 5 trials, women who did exercises were 56 percent less likely to develop urinary incontinence in late pregnancy. They were also 50 percent less likely to develop it after birth, and 30 percent less likely in the 3-6 month postpartum period. The more intensive the exercise program, the better the preventative effects.

What Is a Kegel Exerciser?

A Kegel Exerciser or Toner, is a slim (commonly electrical) device which is inserted in the vagina and works by stimulating the pelvic floor muscles. The device is ergonomically shaped rather like a tampon. When inserted most electrical devices initiate an ‘exercise program’ lasting between 20 and 45 minutes. The advantage over regular Kegels, is that there is no work required by the woman - simply plug in and relax. Electronic operated Kegel Exercisers are not recommended during pregnancy. The average device starts around $40 and can go up to $150. Brand names include Kegel8 Ultra, Pelvexiser and Femme Elite. Manual devices tend to be cheaper, but require you to work! Brand names include Kegelmaster and Energie Kegel.

Related Questions
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For more ensuring a healthy full-term, see the following:

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Pregnancy Questions, basic but important issues answered.

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