Oh wait, that’s pennies, not blueberries. Don’t worry, keep reading and I will explain. I feel like this post is especially important since right now is questionable if you are able to get in to see a pelvic floor therapist.
Kegels were named for Dr. Arnold Kegel. Dr. Kegel conducted an 18-year study on the effects of childbirth to the pelvic floor. His research (in the 1940s!) indicated that after years of muscle disuse, training the pelvic floor muscles could decrease women’s symptoms of urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction (improve orgasm), and decrease pelvic floor prolapse (descent of organs/weakening of the vaginal walls). He also invented a perineometer, a device which could test the strength of pelvic floor muscles. What a guy!
Kegels are important:
-Before, during, and after pregnancy for strength, support and assisting with childbirth and recovery
-To utilize with lifting techniques
-Strengthening after years of chronic constipation/misuse of our pressure system
-General strength and core support
The problem with Kegels is that most people do not perform them correctly. Since the pelvic floor is not a muscle group we can see or visualize, it becomes a little more difficult to activate. But just as you want your arms and legs to be toned and strengthened, the pelvic floor is a muscle group that we must do the same with!
First I will begin by saying that Kegels are typically appropriate if you are not experiencing pain (with intercourse or just general activity). If you are, this could indicate that your muscles are too tight, or you have something else that may need to be addressed with the pelvic floor. If this is the case, you should refer to your physician and ask about pelvic floor therapy as a solution!
Remember the post on breathing? If you don’t, glance over it and first teach yourself how to perform diaphragmatic breathing. Like the pelvic floor, the diaphragm is a muscle that relates directly to the movement and control of your pelvic floor muscles. When you breathe in, your belly expands and your pelvic floor relaxes or descends. When you breathe out, your belly should fall back down and your pelvic floor will return to resting. Since this is the relationship of the pelvic floor to diaphragm, breathing with Kegels can be a great method of recruitment.
So back to the blueberries. My favorite way of explaining pelvic floor exercises is a method I learned from a Canadian physiotherapist at our national physical therapy conference in D.C. in 2019.
Here’s how she explained how to perform a Kegel:
1. Lay on your back with your knees supported by a pillow.
2. Imagine you have a blueberry at the entrance of your vagina or anus.
3. Inhale and allow your muscles to descend or expand downward. Belly and pelvic floor expand/relax.
4. Exhale and think about gently squeezing and lifting the blueberry (like you would try to keep from passing gas). You should be attempting to pull the blueberry up and in.
5. Avoid squeezing too hard, because this will recruit your glutes (butt), adductors (inner thighs), rectus abdominus (6 pack abs), and other surrounding large group muscles. (No one should be able to know you are doing a Kegel!)
6. Repeat steps 1-4. These are considered “quick” contractions. I like to explain that using the breath is merely an exercise, like exercising your biceps, quads, etc. Eventually, you should be able to practice exercises in seated, standing, walking, and with activities.
It is important to practice “quick” and “endurance” contractions. Quick are the muscles on the outside of the pelvic floor that assist with sexual function and continence. Internally, the levator ani group of muscles assists with organ support and long lasting hold to the pelvic floor. To practice endurance contractions, perform steps above but hold the squeeze for 5-10 seconds as able. These are just as important as quick contractions!!
Things to remember:
-The resting is just as important as the squeeze. This will help with coordination and training of the pelvic floor muscles!
-Use a clean or gloved finger, mirror, or dilator to give you biofeedback to feel if you are using the muscles correctly
-Ask your doctor to see a pelvic floor therapist if you are not seeing improvement or unsure if you are performing correctly. Without pain or complications, it could be as easy as 1-3 visits to make sure things are going ok!
Fantastic anatomical photos from Pelvic Guru TM
This content is created in order for individuals to learn more about the pelvic floor. I am in no way giving medical advice or medically assessing the pelvic floor through this blog. If you ever have any health questions or concerns, please consult with your physician or midwife. If you are ever unsure if you are performing exercises correctly, it may be beneficial for you to get a referral from your physician to a pelvic floor therapist for further evaluation. My blog posts are for educational purposes only! I am not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.