What are Kegel Exercises?

Kegel exercises were originally developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel in 1948 to improve incontinence in women after childbirth by strengthening the pubococcygeus or "PC" muscles. These exercises are now recommended for women with urinary stress incontinence, men with urinary incontinence after prostate surgery, and people with fecal incontinence. Another benefit in pregnancy is that the exercising of these muscles makes women more aware of the muscles of the pelvic floor which enhances the ability to keep them relaxed during birth.


It can be taxing for some to identify and isolate the muscles of the pelvic floor. Particular care must be given to only contract the PC muscles rather than the abdominal or thigh muscles.


PERFORMING PELVIC FLOOR EXERCISES

  • Empty the bladder.
  • While exhaling, tighten the pelvic floor muscles.
  • Hold for a count of 10. Relax for a count of 10.
  • Perform 10 repetitions three times daily.


These pelvic exercises can be performed any time and any place. Many women will perform them as part of their perineum massage routine. It may take 4 to 6 weeks to note improvement, so begin early in pregnancy. As proficiency increases, start varying the duration and intensity of the PC squeezing from a long hold to many short bursts.


It is vital to note that overexertion of these muscles by excessive use can be counterproductive. Overextertion may cause fatigue, which can actually increase urine leakage or incontinence.


There are also many kegel exercise devices, such as the Kegel Master or Super Kegel Exerciser to help learn this technique. Many also offer instructional videos or alternate instructional routines which may be an excellent option for those women who are experiencing symptoms of stress incontinence before birth.



References

Factors Related to Genital Tract Trauma in Normal Spontaneous Vaginal Births
Leah L. Albers, CNM, DrPH1*, Kay D. Sedler, CNM, MN1, Edward J. Bedrick, PhD1, Dusty Teaf, MA1, and Patricia Peralta1 Birth, Volume 33 Page 94  - June 2006 

Midwifery care measures in the second stage of labor and reduction of genital tract trauma at birth: a randomized trial. Albers LL, Sedler KD, Bedrick EJ, Teaf D, Peralta P. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2005 Sep-Oct;50(5):365-72. 

Pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises - A pilot study in nulliparous women. Thorp JMJ, Stephenson H, Jones LH, Cooper G 1994

http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr03-31-06-2.cfm



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