Why does the doctor keep asking you to do Kegel exercises when you are pregnant and after that? What makes Kegel exercises so important in a woman's life post pregnancy?
Your uterus, bowels and bladder are basically supported by a floor of muscles called the pelvic floor muscles. During pregnancy and delivery these muscles can get strained and weakened causing a host of problems during pregnancy as well as after delivery. A weak pelvic musculature can cause a sagging or sliding down of the uterus and cervix. It can also cause fecal and urinary incontinence which means that you lose control of your bowel and urinary movement leading to leaking of urine and faeces.
Here is where Kegel exercise comes in. Kegel is a type of pelvic floor muscle training exercise meant specifically to tone up your pelvic muscles. When these muscles are strengthened you are able to get back to controlling your bowels and urination. The rectum, urinary bladder and uterus become well supported and stay in their proper anatomical positions.
How to do this exercise?
It is relatively simple. First identify which muscles are your pelvic muscles. To do this tighten the muscles you would normally do to stop yourself from urinating and also passing stools. Your vagina must also be tightened at the same time. Be careful that your abdomen, thighs or buttocks are NOT being tightened. It's only the inner areas that must be contracted. You can slide in a finger into your vagina to check whether you can feel the contraction.
Now that you know which muscles have to be tightened practice holding this tightening or contraction for a few seconds, then release. The relaxation part is as important as the tightening and must last the same time as the tightening. Do this 2 to 3 times in one set.
How many times do you do Kegel exercises?
Do this exercise many times during the day. Always empty your bladder before you do this exercise as urine may get retained leading to infection. Gradually, increase the time of the contraction and hold for up to 10 seconds for each time, relaxing for 10 seconds before the next contraction.
How will it help?
Kegel exercise will help to some extent if you have any leakage of urine while sneezing, laughing or coughing (stress incontinence), a sudden urge to urinate and not being able to hold in the urine (urinary incontinence) or leaking stools (fecal incontinence).
Doing this exercise will not only make the pelvic floor stronger and more supple it will also help heal your episiotomy faster. It will make your vagina stronger and thereby increase sexual pleasure for both partners. It will prevent and heal any prolapse of the vagina, uterus or rectum. It will also prevent piles from developing in the rectum.
When can you start doing Kegel's?
You can start almost immediately after child birth. In the beginning you may not be able to hold a contraction for more than a few seconds but gradually you can increase the time of hold.
You can do this exercise while lying down, standing up or sitting down. You can do it just about anywhere as no one will know that you are doing them. Take care not to tighten your legs, abdomen or butt. To do Kegels correctly, give your full attention to the pelvic muscles. Do not hold your breath while doing the exercise. Breathe normally.
You can expect results within 3 to 6 months of exercising. Even after that time you should continue to do them as a routine so that your pelvic area stays strong and healthy.
If you have any difficulty in performing these exercises your doctor might advise you to use vaginal weights, cones or other devices to provide resistance against the muscle contractions.