Ever wondered what the deal is with Kegel exercises? You know, those pelvic floor exercises that can help with bladder issues and (big bonus) improve your sex life.
Today we’ve all heard of “doing your Kegels,” but it wasn’t until 1948 when the practice gained the attention of the medical community. That’s when Dr. Arnold Kegel, an obstetrician/gynecologist in the United States, published the results of an 18-year study on the benefits of doing exercises on the pelvic floor muscles. His findings have since been more widely adopted by the medical community—and (thank goddess) have made our sex lives more fierce and improved post-pregnancy care, among other women’s (and men’s) health concerns.
To get the low-down on what Kegel exercises we reached out to Dr. Sherry A. Ross, a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period. Here’s what she had to say about Kegel exercises and how we can all start doing them ASAP anywhere (like while you’re reading this!).
What exactly are Kegel exercises?
There are many reasons why you can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, from pregnancy and childbirth to aging and being overweight. Kegel exercises are a simple and effective way to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. Kegels help avoid damage to this important area during a vaginal delivery. They can also help delay or even prevent pelvic organ prolapse (protrusion of the pelvic organs into or through the vaginal canal) and other related symptoms.
Does it improve your health?
If done correctly and repeatedly over time, you can avoid symptoms such as stress and urge incontinence caused by childbirth, aging, and obesity.
Are there any benefits to sex?
Kegel exercises can also make sexual intercourse more enjoyable for you and your partner.When women do their Kegel exercises and strengthen these pelvic floor muscles it is win-win for her and for him. For women, if they do Kegels while trying to orgasm it can actually enhance your orgasm (who doesn’t love that?). And when a woman Kegels during vaginal intercourse, the pelvic floor muscles contract on the penis enhancing his sexual experience.
When you do Kegels while trying to orgasm it can actually enhance your orgasm (who doesn’t love that?)
Contracting your Kegel muscles with sexual arousal and orgasm helps you not lose urine and also feels good for your male partner during penetration. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles supporting the vagina and urethra so you are able to comfortably squeeze these muscles so you don’t have any surprises with unwanted fluids coming out.
Who benefits the most from practicing them?
Women will benefit the most from making Kegel exercises part of their daily “work out” routine. However, during sexual intercourse with a male partner, men can benefit when a woman contracts her pelvic floor muscles since they will feel the squeezing effects on their penis when these muscles are being contracted. It’s a win-win for both women and men.
Are the common misconceptions of Kegels?
The biggest misconception about Kegel exercises it that they are only meant for older women who have problems related to loss of urine. But you don’t need to have problems with your vagina, bladder, and pelvic floor muscles to begin learning how to Kegel exercises.
How can women practice them? How do they know they’re doing them correctly?
The easiest way to identify your pelvic floor muscles are to pee and while doing so stop the flow of urine midstream and hold it. Hold the contraction for 3 seconds then relax, allowing the flow of urine to continue. Repeat this a couple of times and you will have identified your Kegel muscles.
Another way to identify your Kegel muscles is to insert your first two fingers in the vagina, squeeze you pelvic muscles as if you are holding urine. You should feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward. Then relax your muscles and feel your pelvic floor return to the starting position.
Kegel exercises are easy to do and can be done anywhere without anyone even knowing.
Kegel exercises are easy to do and can be done anywhere without anyone even knowing. Finding the right muscles to tighten or squeeze at first can be tricky but with practice you will find success.
For how long and often should women practice them? Is there a time frame for when they can expect results?
Once you have identified your pelvic floor muscles you can perform Kegel exercises. Before you do them, empty your bladder and sit or lie down. Then:
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles
- Hold the contraction for five seconds
- Then relax for five seconds
Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions a day. You will notice a benefit to your pelvic floor strength in 8 to 12 weeks when done faithfully.
Do Kegels help women pre- or post-pregnancy in any way?
Kegels should definitely be done during pregnancy. Since pregnancy is one of the reasons the pelvic floor muscles can be weakened, Kegels can help strengthen theses muscles and delay symptoms of loss of urine and pelvic organ prolapse caused by a vaginal delivery.
Having the knowledge of your pelvic floor and vaginal muscles helps you better control the pushing phase of labor. Kegels also help with the healing of the vagina and control of the bladder following a vaginal delivery. If you have a shorter labor and faster postpartum recovery, Kegel exercises are well worth the effort.
There are absolutely no downsides to doing Kegel exercises.
Start those Kegels as soon after you have delivered your baby. Whether you had a vaginal birth or a caesarean section, Kegel exercises should be the first exercise you begin postpartum. Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles, resulting in uncomfortable pelvic pressure and unwanted leakage of urine (try sneezing without those muscles).
Kegel exercises are a simple and effective way to strengthen those pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. They can help delay or even prevent pelvic organ prolapse (protrusion of the pelvic organs into or through the vaginal canal) and other related symptoms.
Anything else we should know?
There are absolutely no downsides to doing Kegel exercises. Once you learn how to do them correctly Kegels should be a permanent part of your daily routine. You are never too young to start learning your Kegel exercises and flexing your pelvic floor muscles.