Now that you’ve given birth and your body has healed, you may have noticed that your pelvic floor – or the muscles that support your uterus, bladder, urethra and rectum – is not working quite as it did before pregnancy and childbirth. You may even have found that incontinence becomes (or stays) an issue.
What can you do? The best place to start is with Kegel exercises, which involve the relaxation and contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. While you may have performed Kegels while pregnant to help prepare your body for childbirth, you may also find them to be helpful post-pregnancy. Done correctly, Kegels can help eliminate mild urinary incontinence and restore overall tone to the pelvic floor.
How to do Kegel exercises (adapted from the Mayo Clinic):
The joy of Kegels is that you can do them anytime, anywhere and nobody will notice. The downside of Kegels is that it takes time to master your form. Here’s how to get the best results:
- Find your pelvic floor muscles. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, as most women don’t walk around thinking about their pelvic floor. One of the easiest ways to identify these muscles is simply to use the toilet. See if you can stop the flow of urine in midstream. If you can, you have identified the correct muscles for doing Kegels. However, do not perform Kegels while urinating. Regularly doing so will actually weaken the pelvic floor muscles.
- Find your pelvic floor muscles again, this time outside of the bathroom. Now that you’ve engaged your pelvic floor muscles once, see if you can do it again, for longer. Lay down somewhere comfortable. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for five seconds. Now relax the muscles for five seconds. Try this cycle of contraction and relaxation four or five times in a row. Over time, work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, and then relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- ONLY engage the pelvic floor. Do not contract the muscles in your stomach, thighs or rear while doing Kegels. Doing so will prevent you from performing the exercise correctly and effectively. If you are not sure if you are isolating the pelvic floor muscles, you might want to consider getting biofeedback through a Women’s Health Physical Therapist; he or she can also develop a home program specifically tailored to your needs.
- Repeat several times a day. Kegels do more for your body when you do them more often. Once you have perfected your form, aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
NOTE: Kegels should not be performed if you are experiencing post-partum vaginal tightness or painful intercourse, as they can make these conditions worse. Instead, make an appointment at South Lake asap and read this article on physical therapy for the pelvic floor.
Finally, if problems with incontinence continue to trouble you, please contact our office for an appointment. Depending on what type of incontinence you have and the severity, we can help you find relief through medication, surgery, injections and / or physical therapy.