- Women's Health
Pregnant? Relieve Urinary Incontinence with Kegel Exercises
Urinary incontinence, hemorrhoids, overactive bladder, loss of vaginal muscle tone, and the pregnant woman's curse, otherwise known as "I have to go NOW!" syndrome, all have something in common, besides being a source of dubious humor. Temporary urinary incontinence was long thought to be a normal consequence of pregnancy. It was simply part of the price one paid for bringing forth the next generation. Similar to the long-accepted axiom of loosing a tooth for every child, temporary urinary incontinence is now as easily treated as calcium loss.
Pregnant women are not alone in dealing with these problems. Many women suffer daily embarrassment and the inconvenience of coping with these symptoms. Amusing commercials have touted everything from waterproof undergarments to pharmaceutical relief. Though we chuckle at the commercials, there is nothing funny about being "caught short" in real life.
All of these problems can be relieved, or at least mitigated, by a simple, easy-to-do exercise know as "Kegels" or "The Kegel Exercise", after its originator, Dr. Arnold Kegel. In the 1940s Dr. Kegel, a gynecologist, developed these exercises for his pregnant and post-partum patients to help relieve their incontinence.
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If you are pregnant or have been pregnant, than you probably noticed changes in your muscles. The weight of your baby or the strain of labor and delivery can take a toll on your pelvic floor (vaginal) muscle tone. You may even have noticed some slight urinary incontinence when you laugh or cough.
As well, as women grow older, they can experience a similar mild urinary incontinence while coughing, laughing.
Any sudden activity can also trigger an embarrassing episode. In more severe cases, lifting something such as a bag of groceries can have the same effect.
Sometimes, as well, bearing a child will cause hemorrhoids, which can be irritating, uncomfortable, and downright painful.
They are generally caused when some effort, such as bearing down in childbirth, forces a small blood vessel to protrude into a weakening or fissure in the muscle sheath of the rectal wall. The blood vessel can then become pinched and irritated.
Continued straining, as when you evacuate your bowels, repeatedly stresses the weakened muscle tissue, and causes further pinching and irritation of the blood vessel. Unchecked, this can lead to bleeding, and may eventually require surgery. Exercising these muscles can strengthen the weak spots, so the blood vessels can't protrude into them
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How To Start Your Exercise Program:
These exercises have been proven safe by generations of women seeking relief from temporary urinary incontinence. They can be performed safely during pregnancy, so there is no need to wait 'til baby comes to start relieving these annoying and embarrassing symptoms. As with any exercise regimen though, it is wise to check with your doctor before beginning.
You must first need to locate the correct muscles - your pelvic floor muscles. It is important to make sure that you are exercising the right muscles, as you can do more harm than good by stressing the wrong muscles.
There are two ways to locate you pelvic floor muscles:
- Sit on the toilet and, while urinating, try to stop the flow of your urine. If you can, then you are squeezing the pelvic floor muscles - or -
- Insert your finger inside your vagina. Squeeze as if you were trying to stop urination. If you feel tightness around your finger, then you have located your pelvic floor muscles.
Once you have
located your pelvic floor muscles, just squeeze. Hold this contraction
for a count of three and then release. Relax for a count of three. Repeat this three times.
Be sure not to squeeze your buttocks, legs, or stomach muscles. This will not help to strengthen your pelvic floor and could actually apply pressure to your pelvic muscles.
If your anus contracts while you do the Kegels, that is OK.
For more of a workout, try this variation:
- Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for the count of ten, the release for the count of three
- Repeat three times
- Next, contract the muscles for the count of three and release for the count of three
- Repeat three times
This constitutes one full cycle.
Starting with one full cycle three times a day, gradually increase your time until you can do three full repetitions of the cycle, three times a day.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that you can do them anywhere - whether you are in the shower, watching a movie, or sitting in front of
a computer screen at work. The other great thing is that no-one will ever know you are doing them. Kegels also provide a modest stimulation while you are doing them - very pleasant side-effect to reward and, perhaps, encourage your diligence.
Be sure to keep up with your Kegels after your baby is born, as they are a great part of any long-term fitness program.
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