Kegel Exercises and Incontinence

>> Friday, April 22, 2016

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This week Brenda wrote in because she was having trouble with her bowel and bladder control a year after the birth of her third child. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who can relate to this and how embarrassing it is to bend over to pick something up and accidentally pass gas or squirt out some urine. Or maybe you may have noticed it when you exercise or burst out laughing that out comes a noisy pop (or pops) of gas that is noisy enough that everyone hears, so all the laughter starts again. Most women experience some form of incontinence at some point in their life.

Dear KnowYourV, I am writing because I have been struggling with my bladder since the birth of my 3rd child, and it’s not improving.  What’s really embarrassing is my body will pass gas when it wants to.   I thought it would have been better by now. I have been to my gynecologist and had a second opinion and both said my only choice was surgery. I was hoping that I would not have to have surgery, is there anything I can do?

Many women seek to avoid surgery, Brenda, and I can understand why you would rather try a more conservative approach first. It’s difficult for many of us to take a full 6 – 8 weeks off for total healing and to be relatively inactive during that time for total healing. Often the symptoms you are experiencing come from damage or relaxation to the pelvic floor muscles. This can come from weight gain, pregnancy or childbirth or can be a result of aging even if a woman has had no children. We all experience the effects of aging on the rest of our body as we see the skin and muscle changes and it’s that same force making much of the changes in the pelvic area. Unfortunately, there is no medication to help treat this, and it does continue to worsen over time without any form of treatment.

The most effective form of pelvic floor muscle strengthening is known as Kegel Exercises. These exercises are often recommended to women who are experiencing urine leakage or lack of control over gas. Consistent Kegel exercises can improve urine leakage within a few weeks. Studies have also shown that consistent Kegel exercises can affect an improvement in prolapses (when the uterus, bladder or rectum fall & push through the vaginal wall similar to a hernia). So yes, Brenda, it is worth a try to start with self-improvement. This should include weight loss through exercise, a healthy diet, and dedication to removing foods that may be affecting your bladder negatively, like caffeine and excess amount of sugar.

So what are Kegels? Kegels are a set of exercises proposed back in 1950 by Dr. Arnold H. Kegel, to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder, uterus and bowel. As the muscles become stronger there will be less leaking of urine.

So for those of you who have never done Kegels, or heard of them, let’s go through step by step how it works. Start by finding the right muscles. Lie down and put your finger in your vagina. Squeeze as if you are trying to stop the flow of urine from coming out. If you feel tightening on your finger then these are the muscles of the pelvic floor. Another way to find the muscles is to stop the urine midstream when urinating on the toilet (but do not continue exercises on the toilet).

· First empty your bladder
· Tighten the muscles and hold for 10 seconds
· Relax the muscles completely for 10 seconds
· Repeat the process for 5 minutes (or 10 sets) 3 times a day.

You can do Kegel exercises lying down, standing or sitting.

Do not worry if you are not dong them right or if it takes longer to get your results, just go check with your clinician for help. Also, over doing it will not make things happen faster, if there is no improvement, there may be other therapies and devices that can help. There are some newer surgical procedures that are working very well and may only require that you be out of work a short time. Keep working at it and focus on your health and you will begin to see improvement.

Thank you so much for your question, and I hope you have a wonderful week and stay safe.

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