Kegel

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No one wants to pee when they sneeze

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Lovely post title, huh?  At least it got your attention.  What we are going to talk about today is K-E-G-E-L-S.  If you don’t know what Kegels are, stick around, this makes great dinner conversation (i.e. “Did you Kegel today?” or “I Kegel-ed while on jury duty.”) and you can learn how doing Kegels can: make birth easier, enhance sexual pleasure, prevent urinary incontinence and prevent pelvic organ prolapse (yes, we are talking about your cervix dropping down into your vagina).

The word Kegel has two meanings.  It is the pelvic floor muscle (aka pubococcygeous muscle or PC muscle) surrounding the urethra, vagina and rectum that runs from the symphysis pubis in front to the coccyx in back.  It is also the name of an exercise to strengthen said muscle named after Dr. Arnold Kegel who “discovered” the muscle.  This exercise helps maintain proper tone to your muscle as poor tone may cause incontinence, discomfort, lack of sensation during intercourse, unusual pain during birth, premature flexure of baby’s head, prolonged second stage, damage to muscle and feelings of pressure (Hathaway, Marjie, Jay & James The Bradley Method® Student Workbook).

The Kegel exercise is done by contracting your pelvic floor muscle and holding.  To know you have the correct muscle, try stopping the flow of urine (do not make a habit of this as it can actually weaken the muscle).  You should not be tightening your hips, thighs, buttocks, abdominal, neck or face muscles to do this exercise.  As with any exercise, do not hold your breath either.  As you get the basic contract, hold routine down, you can add other variations including slow contract, slow release, and longer hold.  Increase the number of repetitions and number of times you do them throughout the day.

The biggest hurdle with the Kegel exercise is remembering to do it.  During pregnancy, the dad can help remind mom to do her exercises.  The pregnant mother should aim for 200 Kegels a day to aid in her delivery and recovery and to prevent incontinence.  A woman trying to improve the condition of her pelvic floor muscles can expect to see an increase in muscle tightness in 8 to 12 weeks.  You can actually Kegel almost anywhere, anytime: while you brush your teeth, while driving in your car (but don’t talk on your cell phone at the same time too), while nursing your newborn, during intercourse (your hubby will notice this and enjoy it), while watching television, etc.

oldladycoughlaughsneezepeelolKegels are not just for the pregnant female.  Different conditions can put stress on the pelvic muscle including: pregnancy, childbirth, being overweight, aging, a chronic cough and a predisposition to weak connective tissue.  Men can benefit from doing Kegels as well (it helps with premature ejaculationas well as urinary incontinence).  In fact, in doing research for this post topic, I found many “interesting” sites with a lot of “interesting” gadgets and gizmos with fun names to help men and women train this muscle (perhaps there’s a sexual marathon coming up).

So, now it is time for TMI and a practice what you preach excerpt.  My first child was 10 pounds 8 ounces and he had shoulder dystocia.  I had a 3rd degree tear (4th degree is from hole to hole) from his birth.  I did my Kegels whenever I remembered throughout my pregnancy since I was reminded by my Bradley classes, but I was not as good about it with my second pregnancy.  Let me tell you, it is not fun to be almost 10 months pregnant, sick with a cold that had me coughing and sneezing and having to deal with a little pee in my panties.  I could try and blame it on my son’s birthbut it is all about conditioning yourself and making it a habit and I am dedicated to being a better student with any future pregnancies and do my Kegels.