Do you Kegel? After doing a little reconnaissance I was surprised to learn just how important these exercises are for the all-important Pubococcygeus Muscle (or PC Muscle for short)! Feel the need to cross your legs when you sneeze? Ever laugh so hard that you pee a little? You may not be concerned with these things just yet, but you will be if you don’t start your Kegel routine now.
There are a variety of reasons that having a strong PC muscle is beneficial for a lifetime of health. From childbirth to sexual intercourse to urination and bowel movements, strengthening your PC muscle is pivotal. I bet you’re doing Kegels right now!
Check out the normal female anatomy to your left. I’ve best heard the PC muscle (aka Pelvic Floor Muscles) described as the hammock of muscles attached to your pubic bone wrapping around your vagina, urethra and rectum. If your PC muscle is in shape, it will support your inner organs, keeping them up high and in place.
How to Kegel
First, you must identify your PC muscle. The next time you are urinating, with your knees apart stop the flow without putting your knees back together. Kegel Exercises are very simple, it is the same squeezing sensation, however you can squeeze stronger and tighter when off the toilet. Try doing 10 right now. You might find it harder than you would think.
Pregnancy & Childbirth
During labor, once mom has fully dilated and is ready to deliver, the baby is pushed out through the birth canal (or more well-known as the vagina or vaginal barrel). You know every new mother’s fear and every new father’s worst nightmare for postpartum… ”Will sex be like throwing a hot dog down a hallway?” Thank you for that image Jenny McCarthy. Well, Kegels are the first exercise your doctor will give you the green light to start after delivery. I diverge.
Your Vaginal Barrel/Birth Canal is supported by the PC muscle. So, if you have a strong PC muscle you have a well-supported tight vaginal barrel and birth canal (more like a hot dog in a bun than a hallway). Whereas if you are lacking PC tone, your vaginal barrel is loose, short and saggy… the hallway issue. When the baby comes down the birth canal, the saggy tissue can be pulled forward causing tension, making it harder to push your baby through. Potentially causing pinched and torn tissue. With a strong hammock the baby can pass through the well-supported tissue easily. In fact, a strong PC muscle will make this part of delivery easier where the tight canal keeps the babies chin down and in a better position. Stong PC muscles also help mom have more controlled pushing which becomes more important as the baby crowns.
Urinary Incontinence & Pelvic Prolapse
During pregnancy it is normal for ligaments and muscles to loosen. Most pregnant woman experience urine leakage when they laugh, sneeze, cough or run. Kegels will help limit urinary incontinence in this situation and all through life as we age. Pelvic Prolapse is a bit more serious and is a result of a weak PC muscle. Basically, Pelvic Prolapse is when your pelvic organs slip down too low because the muscle is not supporting the organs adequately. Take a look at the Diagram from Healthwise, Inc. above. In the image on your left, see how the uterus is up and pointing towards the belly button. In the image on the right the PC muscle has started to weaken and the uterus is dropping putting pressure on the bladder and vagina.
We already touched on this topic a little already with the whole hotdog and hallway metaphor. But there is even more… With a tight PC muscle women can have more orgasms. It makes sense really, if you have a tight barrel, it makes more contact with your partner’s penis. A loose barrel tends to get pulled in uncomfortable ways. In long-term un-supported pelvic floors, as the bladder and uterus drop as shown above, intercourse may become uncomfortable. Need even more incentive: The PC muscle also has two one-centimeter spots in the muscle that are loaded with nerve endings similar to the clitoris. Let the Kegels Begin!
Kegels for Men (The PC/BC Muscle)
Kegels aren’t just for women, they are just as important for men. A stong PC muscle for men can mean stronger erections and more control over ejaculations, along with of course prevention of urinary and bowel incontinence. “Research published in 2005 issue of BJU International, have shown that pelvic floor exercises could help restore erectile function in men with erectile dysfunction.” AskMen.com has a great article if you’re looking for exercise routines and how to find a man’s PC muscle.
Getting into a Routine
The hardest part of the Kegel Exercise is remembering to do them! Once you get the hang of it you can do them anywhere, anytime. Red lights, washing dishes, watching TV, reading a book… anything you can think of to get your sets in everyday. I have found several differing opinions of what the right routine is for getting into Kegels. Dr. Kegel recommended 300 a day whereas other sites start you off with 50- so do your research and figure out the right amount for you. Concentrating on keeping your buttocks and abdominal muscles relaxed, flex your whole PC muscle deep inside. Try breaking up the sets with 100 in the morning, 100 midday and 100 at night. Once your PC muscle is in good shape start trying to hold for 10 seconds. If you are thinking about the Bradley Method they have a wonderful breakout of kegel exercises for pregnancy in their book, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way.