Urinary incontinence in women is a medical condition that is frequently observed especially after childbirth and later in life. In mild urinary incontinence problems, it is possible to get rid of this problem with a simple exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor muscles without the need for surgery. These movements, called Kegel exercises, were developed in the late 1940s, by an American gynecologist, Dr. It was developed by Arnold H. Kegel as a non-surgical way to prevent urinary incontinence in women. It has been observed that Kegel exercises can also work for men with urinary incontinence today. In this article, we have compiled what you wonder about the Kegel exercise for you.
What are pelvic floor muscles and what do they do?
Another name for the Kegel exercise is the pelvic floor muscle exercise. For this reason, before describing Kegel exercises, it will be useful to talk about where the pelvic floor muscles are and what they do.
The area between the lower abdomen and legs in the human body is generally called the pelvis. In other words, it is the area that starts about 4 fingers below the navel and is known as the lower bikini area.
The floor of the pelvis is made up of muscle and other tissue layers. The pelvic floor muscles extend like a hammock from the coccyx at the back to the pubic bone in front. A woman’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder (bladder), uterus (uterus), and bowel (colon). The urethra, called the urethra, passes between the vagina and the pelvic floor muscles of the anus (anal canal), the last part of the large intestine. Your pelvic floor muscles help control the bladder and bowel as well as aid sexual function. For all these reasons, it is important to have strong pelvic floor muscles.
Why should I do a Kegel exercise?
Like all voluntary contractile muscles, pelvic floor muscles are muscles that get stronger and develop as they work. Women of all ages should have strong pelvic floor muscles. The following situations can cause weakness of the pelvic floor muscles of women:
- Not keeping the pelvic floor muscles active,
- Being pregnant or giving birth,
- Being overweight
- Heavy to lift,
- Having a chronic or prolonged cough (as a result of diseases such as smoking cough, bronchitis, or asthma),
- Advanced age.
Women with stress incontinence, that is, those who have urinary incontinence problems when they cough, sneeze, can overcome this problem with pelvic floor muscle training. Pelvic floor muscle exercises for pregnant women will help the body cope with the increased weight of the baby. Before the baby is born, healthy, fit muscles will recover more easily after birth. After your baby’s birth, you should start Kegel exercises as soon as possible. You should always support your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing and holding them inside before coughing, sneezing, or lifting the baby to hold the baby.
Also, as women age, it is even more important that their pelvic floor muscles remain strong, as hormone changes after menopause can negatively affect bladder control. In addition, as all muscles get older, the pelvic floor muscles also weaken. A Kegel exercise plan can help reduce the negative effects of menopause on pelvic support and bladder control. Kegel exercises can also work for women who have an urgent need to urinate, known as “urge incontinence.”
How is a Kegel exercise done?
Although the Kegel exercise is a simple exercise that can be done anywhere, finding the right muscles is very important. Studies have shown that one-third or more of men and women who do Kegel exercises actually work the wrong muscles (abdominal, hip, or inner thigh muscles). Individuals who work these muscles cannot see the mentioned benefits of Kegel.
If you haven’t tried the Kegel exercise before, the first thing to do is find out which muscles you need to train. The easiest way is to empty your bladder while sitting on the toilet, trying to stop the flow of urine. Stop and start the urine flow again. When doing this, pay attention to which muscles you use. You should not do this more than once a week, because frequent stopping and starting the flow of urine can cause some problems in the urinary tract.
To try the Kegel exercise in a place other than the toilet, first relax and relax your thigh muscles, hips, and stomach. You can lie down if you want to find the right muscles for the first time. Another technique that can help you to do the kegel exercise is to imagine sitting on a marble or a ball and tightening your pelvic muscles as if you were lifting this marble inward and upward. The first time, contract these muscles for about three seconds, then relax by counting them to three.
If you do not feel a distinct ‘squeezing and lifting’ of your pelvic floor muscles or are unable to slow your urine flow, your obstetrician can assist you with this. Women with very weak pelvic floor muscles can benefit from pelvic floor muscle training.
What Are the Benefits of Kegel Exercises?
Let’s come to the benefits of this miracle exercise:
- Strong pelvic floor muscles can reduce many symptoms, from hemorrhoids during pregnancy and postpartum, to urinary and fecal leakage.
- It can prevent the need for episiotomy, ie incision or tear, during birth.
- It has been observed that the vaginas of women who do regular kegel exercises throughout pregnancy are more easily restored after the baby is out.
- Stretching and strengthening your pelvic muscles with kegel exercises can increase the pleasure you get from sex after birth.
How many times and how often should Kegel movements be performed?
Once you are sure that the correct muscles are working, you can move on to other exercises. Using the tightened muscles around the anal canal to prevent gas discharge, tighten the muscles in your vagina, and pull them towards you. You should have a “lift” sensation every time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Even if you have trouble doing it before, your goal should be to try to contract your pelvic floor muscles for 8 seconds. Again, wait about 8 seconds before starting another repetition. If you can’t hold your pelvic floor muscles for 8 seconds, hold them as long as possible and take note of how long you are holding. This period should develop over time. Repeat these “tightening and lifting” procedures for 8 to 12 tightens. Try to do three sets (8 seconds, 8 reps, 3 sets), resting in between. While lying down
When doing Kegel exercises, consider the following:
- Keep breathing.
- Just squeeze and lift.
- Do not tighten your hips.
- Keep your thighs comfortable.
- Remember that quality is more important than numbers. (As with all muscle exercises, quality, not a number, is important in pelvic floor exercises. So a less complete tightening exercise works better than a multiple but poor or half tightening exercise.)
When to seek professional help?
If you are not sure that you are doing the jams correctly or if you do not see any change in symptoms after 3 months, seek help from your doctor or physical therapist. Obstetricians specialize in women’s health and pelvic floor muscle exercises. They can evaluate your pelvic floor function and adapt an exercise program to meet your specific needs.
Important reminders about the Kegel exercise
- You can do the Kegel exercise only during urination to understand the location of your muscles. Performing this exercise during continuous urination may cause the bladder (urinary bladder) not to be emptied completely and increases the possibility of urinary tract infection.
- Although Kegel exercises are very simple, they are forgotten to be done daily. Setting yourself a clock and setting an alarm ensures you don’t skip the Kegel exercise.
- Do not contract your other muscles during Kegel exercises. Focus only on your pelvic floor muscles. After a while, you will see that this exercise becomes much easier. As it gets easier, you can increase the number and time to tighten your muscles.
We wish you healthy days.
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