egels aren’t just for women postpartum. EVERYONE can benefit from them, men and women, and in all stages of life.
What Are They? - Kegels are contractile exercises that strengthen the entire pelvic floor, which are a pretty important group of muscles.
Where Are They? - What is the pelvic floor? Scientifically, it’s called your pubococcygeus! Wow, that’s a mouthful. However, it is a generalized group of muscles that support our pelvic organs, sexual function, and spinal integrity (through stabilization of abdominal and back muscles). They are part of a larger complex that encompasses the entire core - with your diaphragm at the top, abdominals and back muscles surrounding, and pelvic floor at the bottom!
The Importance - Yeah, they’re pretty important, for both men and women out there who want to get strong, combat the occasional pee while running or sneezing, or even improve sensations during intercourse.
For pregnant women, they’re also just as important! Deficiency in these muscles can cause unusual pain during childbirth, a prolonged second stage of labor, premature flexion of your baby’s head in utero, or just uncomfortable feelings of pressure… and we all know that sensation is REAL!
Finding Guidance Isn’t Easy
When I was pregnant, I never got instruction from my OB on how to focus on this area. So many women need help with this area, they see specialists, especially postpartum… so obviously I went to the internet for help! LOL
Everything I read online told me to find my pelvic floor by stopping my pee mid stream - it told me to start and stop my urination throughout the entire time emptying my bladder to strengthen the area. However, when not used as a diagnostic, but a strengthening tool, doing this repeatedly can lead to bladder issues… youch!
This widely-known, misguided approach neglects MUCH of where the pelvic floor is and what it holds in. Only after I went to a birthing class and received instruction from a doula did I really know what it was I was supposed to do, so I wanted to share these nuggets of wisdom!
See diagram below. Yes, we’re gettin’ graphic here! You didn’t expect me to talk about this without some ANATOMY, right?!
See Urethral Hiatus – the little gray oval at the top of the image. That is the area that stopping your pee focuses on when you cease urination mid stream (and the muscles directly around it to some degree).
See the rest of the cool colors of the rainbow on that picture? The teal, the red, the green, the yellow, and the maroon? Yeah, those are all of the OTHER MUSCLES of the pelvic floor that need some love.
So, instead of thinking of kegels as a way of working on where we pee (the front of the pelvis), we need to think of it as much more.
Ok, so how do we find this nebulous pelvic floor? Ladies, next time you use a tampon, or just use your darn finger (it’s your body, take control!), squeeze that thing.
Blow out a candle! Feel your undercarriage come upwards as you are blowing? That’s the pelvic floor working synergistically with an abdominal contraction and your diaphragm!
This WHOLE AREA is the pelvic floor.
So now what do we do to strengthen now that you’ve found the darn thing?! Functional, everyday tasks like picking up your kid at awkward angles walking up stairs with bags of groceries is the best way to work these muscles synergistically and most functionally.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t also work these muscles a bit more on their own, especially if they are a weak link in the kinetic chain (seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist is the best way to get assessed, as they can run diagnostics).
Find your entire core complex through breathing, drawing a relationship between your natural functions/movement and pelvic floor contraction and relaxation.
Once you have found this connection between your breath and pelvic floor contraction and relaxation, we can move onto...
How Often Should I Do These?
Every woman is different. Some have pelvic floors that are too strong, while others just need a little bit of work and not a total overhaul. Since it is so variable, only a pelvic floor physiotherapist can advise you on what is best for you! Need a referral? Reach out to us! We’re here for you!