If you are or have been a pregnant lady, you have probably heard about Kegel’s exercises. In my work as a women’s health physical therapist, I have been frequently surprised at how few women actually know how to properly achieve a Kegel’s contraction. It’s a strange phenomenon, these well-read and seemingly-body-aware mothers who eagerly nod their heads “yes” when I ask them if they did their Kegel exercises throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum recovery phase. They are perplexed at why, then, they leak when they sneeze even 4 months postpartum. Upon further investigation, I discover that they have poor pelvic floor muscle tone and in fact are completely unable to achieve a Kegel’s contraction. The problem: they never learned to isolate the tiny pubococcygeus (PC) muscles and never even knew it. All those months they were squeezing away, contracting instead the stronger and larger pelvic muscles that didn’t need strengthening to begin with.
In most cases, I have them on the right track to pelvic floor health in just one or two sessions. My secrets revealed….
The Pee Test: The first thing I do is assign the task of trying to stop the flow of urine. This simple task actually requires substantial PC muscle strength and women who leak when they sneeze invariably cannot stop their flow. The pee test serves as a good baseline measure for guaging progress with pelvic floor training. It is an effective test and a good technique to learn to isolate the PC muscles, but not a good way to try to exercise the muscles due to risk of irritating the urinary tract.
The Finger: Then I give homework. I instruct women to relax while lying on the back and to insert two clean fingers into the vagina before trying to squeeze the fingers with the inner vaginal walls. The hips should stay relaxed, with no contraction in the buttocks or the inner thighs so as to isolate the contraction to the inside. When they reach as strong a contraction as they can muster, I ask them to hold it for a count of 10 and repeat for 10 reps, 3 times a day.
Sexercise: Once you can manage a full set of 10 Kegel’s around the finger, the homework gets more fun when you engage your partner in the workout. The exercises is simple, same as above but using your partner’s penis in place of your finger. He will like this exercise as much as you do. And since Kegel’s have the added benefit of increased ease and frequency of female orgasm, it is a pleaser all around!
Stay tuned for other interesting ways to work your PC muscle in a future edition!