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Women's Health: The Benefits of Kegels

Monday, October 05, 2015 2:54 PM

There are many things that women can do to stay healthy – whether it’s getting sufficient calcium to getting regular mammograms and pelvic exams as women age. But what is one of the most common exercises that women tend to forget?

Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor – a series of muscles and tissue between the hips – supports a woman’s womb, bladder and bowels. The pelvic floor can be weakened in women from pregnancy, childbirth, aging and weight gain. If the pelvic floor muscles are weakened, it can cause many symptoms including urinary incontinence and discomfort. Mary Conte, MD, Obstetrics & Gynecology at NorthShore, recommends that women regularly do Kegel exercises.

So what are Kegel exercises? Think of the muscles used to stop peeing; those are the muscles utilized while doing Kegels. Practice squeezing these muscles and holding them for 3 seconds and then relaxing. Try to do this a total of 10 times, 3 times a day. When you start, do the exercises lying down, then as you get stronger you can do them sitting or standing.

Dr. Conte often recommends Kegel exercises for:

  • Pregnant and postpartum women. The pelvic floor can be stretched and weakened with pregnancy. Daily Kegels during pregnancy and after childbirth can help maintain pelvic floor support, treat incontinence and prevent hemorrhoids. Kegels should be done every day to maintain muscle strength.
  • Patients experiencing stress incontinence. Stress incontinence is when urine is leaked while laughing, coughing, sneezing, jumping, or lifting something heavy. Kegels can help prevent these leaks.
  • Young women. Regular Kegel exercises help keep the muscles toned and contribute to a most satisfying sexual experience.

As with any exercise, remember to consult your doctor before you start. Don’t forget to be proactive! Exercising is better at preventing a problem than treating one.