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Urinary Incontinence: Kegel Exercises for Pelvic Muscles

Posted Dec 20 2008 5:37pm
Kegels are very important for new and expectant mothers.

Urinary Incontinence: Kegel Exercises for Pelvic Muscles
Kegel exercises are one of the most effective ways of controlling urinary incontinence naturally.

Any woman who's had a baby has likely heard: remember your Kegels! The physician who invented these pelvic floor muscle exercises, Arnold Kegel, MD, first recommended them to his women patients who had just given birth and were leaking urine.

But Kegel exercises can help most women with urinary incontinence, regardless of cause or age. Kegel exercises aim to correct an underlying cause of urinary incontinence: the weakened pelvic floor muscles that can occur after childbirth or in overweight people. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, urine can leak, especially if you have a form of urinary incontinence called stress incontinence. This is the type in which you leak urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, or are engaged in physical activities such as jogging or sex. The value of improving urinary incontinence with Kegel exercises is now widely accepted.

Here's what you need to know:

Who can benefit from Kegel exercises? Anyone, at any age, who suffers urinary incontinence or leaks urine. While the exercise mainly helps those with stress urinary incontinence, it can also help those with another common type, urge incontinence, also called overactive bladder. With urge incontinence, you have a sudden urge to urinate and don't always make it to the bathroom. Men with urinary incontinence problems can do Kegel exercises, too.
How are Kegel exercises done? To exercise the pelvic floor muscle, pretend you are trying to stop the flow of urine. Pull in and squeeze those muscles. Hold the squeeze for about 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Try for three or four sets of 10 contractions every day.
How do Kegel exercises help? Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, an underlying cause of urinary stress incontinence. When these muscles are weak, it can cause you to leak urine.
When should I expect to see results from my Kegels? Just as it takes time to build your biceps and strengthen any other muscles, it takes time to strengthen muscles in the pelvic floor. Give the Kegel exercises six or even 12 weeks to work. And remember you must keep doing them, and you should do them daily.
When and where should I do Kegel exercises? The beauty of Kegels is that you can really do them just about anywhere, anytime. No one would know unless you tell them what you are doing. Try doing a few sets of Kegels when you are in your car, sitting at your desk, or watching TV. To be sure you are doing Kegels correctly, ask your doctor or the nurse to describe or demonstrate the proper form.
Do I need any equipment for Kegel exercises? Not for doing Kegels alone. But some doctors suggest you also use weighted cones as you do Kegel exercises. The idea is to insert these vaginal cones, available in various weights, and perform the Kegel exercises with the cones in place. You gradually increase the weight of the cone you insert. Sometimes, Kegel exercises are used in combination with biofeedback, a monitoring system that helps you gain control over bodily processes such as urinary control. And sometimes Kegels are done in combination with electrical stimulation, in which very brief doses stimulate muscles in the area. But you can choose to do Kegel exercises by themselves, with no equipment.
Are there any other benefits to Kegel exercises? Actually, yes. Kegel exercises aren't just good for improving urinary incontinence. The stronger your pelvic floor muscles, the more sexual pleasure you can expect. That was an accidental "side effect" discovered by Kegel. He heard back from his patients about these sexual benefits. The pelvic floor muscles contract more strongly during orgasm once they are strengthened.
WebMD Medical Reference

View Article Sources
SOURCES: American Academy of Family Physicians: "Urinary Incontinence: Kegel Exercises for Your Pelvic Muscles." National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: "Urinary Incontinence in Women." National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Urge Incontinence." WebMD Medical News: "Kegel Exercises Help Women With Urinary Incontinence." WebMD Medical News: "Kegel Exercises Ease Stress Incontinence." WebMD Health Guide: "Benefits of Kegel Exercises for Incontinence." WebMD Sex Matters: "What is a kegel and can it really help my sex life?

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 19, 2007
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