Your pelvic floor (PF) is composed of muscles that support your bladder, uterus and colon. The urine tube (front passage), the vagina and the back passage all pass through the PF muscles as well. Your PF muscles help you to control your bladder and bowel, so weak PF muscles can lead to incontinence.
Many women experience this during pregnancy, but urinary incontinence can be common postpartum as well due to childbirth weakening the PF muscles. This is a common problem for women when they are exercising, laugh, cough or sneeze. Strengthening your PF muscles before, during and after pregnancy can dramatically reduce urinary incontinence.
Kegel exercises can be used to help control urinary incontinence. These exercises help tighten and strengthen the PF muscles; strengthening the PF muscles can improve the function of the urethra and rectal sphincter.
If you don't know what your Kegel muscles are, you can sit on the toilet and begin urinating, then stop urinating mid-stream. The muscles that you use to stop the flow of urine are the Kegel muscles.
To perform Kegel exercises, you should:
- Keep your abdominal, thigh, and butt muscles relaxed
- Tighten the PF muscles
- Hold the muscles until you count to 5, work up to 10 seconds
- Relax the PF muscles until you count to 5, work up to 10 seconds
Do 10 Kegel exercises in the morning, afternoon, and at night. They can be done anytime, while driving, standing or sitting at your desk. Work up to 50 times per day. Women who do Kegel exercises tend to see results in four to six weeks.