1, 2, 3, 4, exercise your pelvic floor

I first read about pelvic floor exercises last autumn. Experiencing a severe case of information overload, I dismissed it as something I would think about “closer to the time”. After casually mentioning to my Mum recently that I had to visit the bathroom more frequently and with a new level of desperation, she immediately mentioned pelvic floor exercises and stressed how everyone needs to do them. This made me realise that they must be important!

What are pelvic floor exercises? Otherwise known as Kegels, the purpose of them is to strengthen the muscles that control vaginal contractions and the urge to visit the bathroom. The benefits of exercising these muscles is that not only can they help you avoid embarrassing leaks when you sneeze or laugh or simply can’t get to the bathroom in time, but they are also invaluable preparation for the labour process. If I hadn’t been convinced enough already, another major benefit is that the exercises can apparently improve enjoyment in other, more private areas of your life after giving birth (sorry Mum!)

Wikipedia informs me that Arnold Henry Kegel (1894-1981) was a gynaecologist who invented pelvic floor exercises as a natural treatment for women with urinary incontinence. He also invented the “Kegel perineometer”, which measures the strength of pelvic contractions.

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The great man himself

The idea of pelvic floor exercises is that you tense these particular muscles for a few seconds, then slowly release and repeat. It is as if you are trying to hold in a flow of wee. Try not to tense up any other part of your body – for example, I find that my tummy often feels left out and wants to join in!

I wonder what mark out of ten Dr Kegel would give my pelvic strength? Pretty weak, I imagine… my problem is not with the exercises themselves, but remembering to actually do them. I only do them when I think about it, and I mean, how often does your mind turn to pelvic floor exercises? It’s suggested you can do them sitting at your desk, on the bus, on the phone etc. Basically any time, anywhere. You’re supposed to do them a few times a day for a few minutes each time. I guess I could try and do them before or after each meal, as that is the one thing that is guaranteed to happen (at least) three times a day!

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