The Pelvic Floor and a Guide to Kegel Exercises
The pelvic floor plays a crucial role in maintaining core stability, supporting pelvic organs, and controlling bladder and bowel function. However, despite its significance, the pelvic floor is often overlooked and neglected.
Many people suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction, leading to issues such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and sexual dysfunction. Fortunately, kegel exercises provide a simple and effective solution to strengthen pelvic floor tone.
Understanding the Female Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is an intricate network of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that span the base of the pelvis.
In the female anatomy, the pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum, maintaining their proper position and function.
The pelvic floor consists of three layers of muscles:
- Superficial Perineal Layer: This layer includes the bulbospongiosus and ischiocavernosus muscles. It supports the openings of the urethra, vagina, and rectum.
- Deep Urogenital Diaphragm: Composed of the external urethral sphincter, deep transverse perineal muscle, and compressor urethrae muscle, this layer helps control urination and supports the urethra.
- Pelvic Diaphragm: The deepest layer consists of the levator ani muscles, which include the pubococcygeus, puborectalis, and iliococcygeus. The pelvic diaphragm supports the pelvic organs, contributes to urinary and fecal continence, and plays a vital role in sexual function.
Common Issues of the Female Pelvic Floor
Weak or dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles can lead to various problems, including:
- Urinary Incontinence: Stress incontinence, characterized by leakage during activities such as coughing, sneezing, jumping or exercising, is often caused by a weak pelvic floor. Another form, urge incontinence, involves a sudden and strong urge to urinate, resulting in leaks.
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse: Weakened pelvic floor muscles can allow the bladder, uterus, or rectum to descend into the vaginal canal, causing discomfort and a feeling of pressure. This condition may require surgical intervention.
- Sexual Dysfunction: A strong pelvic floor enhancers sexual function and satisfaction. Weakness in these muscles can lead to decreased sensation, difficulties with arousal or pain during intercourse.
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Regular practice of Kegels offers numerous benefits, including:
- Improved Bladder Control: Strengthening the pelvic floor can enhance urinary continence and alleviate issues of both stress and urge incontinence.
- Prevention of Pelvic Organ Prolapse: By increasing the strength and tone of the pelvic floor muscles, the risk of pelvic organ prolapse can be reduced.
- Enhanced Sexual Function: Strong pelvic floor muscles result in increased blood flow to the genital area, improved sensation, and better muscle control, leading to enhanced sexual arousal and orgasm.
Performing Kegel Exercises
To perform Kegel exercises correctly, follow these steps:
- Identify the Correct Muscles: Start by identifying the muscles you need to target. Imagine stopping the flow of urine midstream or tightening the muscles used to prevent passing gas. These are the pelvic floor muscles you should focus on during Kegels.
- Find a Comfortable Position: You can perform Kegel exercises while lying down, sitting, or standing. Choose a position that feels most comfortable for you.
- Contract the Muscles: Squeeze the pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for 5 seconds. Avoid tensing the muscles in your abdomen, buttocks, or thighs. Breathe normally during the exercise.
- Release and Relax: After holding the contraction, release the muscles and relax for 5 seconds.
- strong>Repeat and Increase Intensity: Aim for 10 repetitions of the exercise, three times a day. As your muscles become stronger, gradually increase the duration of the contractions up to 10 seconds and increase the number of repetitions.
Pelvic floor trainers can be inserted while performing kegel exercises and help ensure the correct muscles are being targeted.
Maintaining Consistency and Progression
Consistency is key when it comes to Kegel exercises. Like any muscle group, the pelvic floor requires regular workouts to maintain strength and function.
Here are a few tips for maintaining consistency and progression:
- Set Reminders: It can be helpful to set reminders or incorporate Kegels into your daily routine. For example, associate them with brushing your teeth or specific mealtimes.
- Track Your Progress: Keep a record of your exercises to monitor your progress over time. This can be motivating and help you stay on track.
- Seek Professional Guidance: If you're unsure about performing Kegel exercises correctly or have specific concerns, consult a healthcare professional such as a pelvic floor physiotherapist or gynecologist.
Daily Kegel exercises offer a simple and effective way to strengthen these muscles, improve bladder control, prevent pelvic organ prolapse, enhance sexual function and improve your quality of life.
With regular practice, most people notice results with a few weeks it may take a little longer to build up muscle stregth. If you are doing regular exercises and don't see an improvement in pelvic floor tone within 2-3 months, please consult your healthcare professional. They will assist you in determining if the exercises are being done correctly or if an alternative treatment is needed.
- Mayo Clinic. (2022). Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women.