Is “tightness” a myth? Yeah, sure, but you should still be getting your kegels on sis. Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic-floor exercises, involve repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor.
Cape Town gynae, Dr Natalia Novikova, tells Health For Mzansi, “every woman should do kegel exercises several times a day”.
While Johannesburg gynae, Dr Justin Molebatsi, explains that kegel exercises form an important part of pelvic floor muscle training or therapy and is used as a first line or conservative treatment option for most disorders of pelvic floor function.
“It is important that patients are taught how to identify and train the correct muscles, and this usually requires involvement of a trained physiotherapist,” he says.
Molebatsi, is an obstetrician and gynaecologist in the urogynaecology unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital.
Many factors can lead to the weakening of your pelvic floor including pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, excessive straining from constipation or chronic coughing, and being overweight.
Babes, get a grip
The sensation of doing kegels should feel like you are stopping yourself from peeing, explains Malehlaku Tsebela (33) from Harrismith in the Free State. She says that she read about the benefits of kegel exercises in a women’s magazine a few years ago. Whenever she remembers, she will engage in her kegels.
“I know a major benefit is to keep your vaginal muscles tight, something along those lines, I can feel it’s beneficial during sex and I would advise other ladies to do the exercises as well.”
Zubeida Rewu (22) from Mamelodi in Pretoria, has also tried them before but it was a once off experience.
“I don’t think I care about the benefits, I tried advising other ladies and I failed. I told them to just try them so that they know of them, just like I did,” she says.
Meanwhile, Bontle Tswai (24) from Killarney, in Johannesburg, also knows what kegel exercises are and does them occasionally.
Beneficial for all genders
“I learnt about kegel exercises from watching the Tyra Banks show on TV years ago. They help with strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, which leads to better health of your reproductive organs. I do them whenever I think about them, or I hear about them which is roughly every three months or so. I would advise other ladies to do them, because it has a lot of benefits for people of all genders – especially the improvement of your sexual health,” Tswai says.
Palesa Lemeke (24), from the South of Johannesburg, has also tried kegel exercises after hearing about them from her cousin and close friend.
“I’ve heard that doing kegel exercises increase sexual intercourse pleasure,” she says.
What are the benefits of doing kegels?
Molebatsi explains that the pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles and other tissues that provide anatomical support to the structures in the pelvis.
“In a woman, these structures mainly include the bladder, the uterus, and the bowel,” he says. “The pelvic floor muscles do not only provide support to these structures, but also contribute in part, to their normal functioning.”
Molebatsi adds that the pelvic floor muscles can become weak and may result in a variety of disorders of pelvic floor function. “Common causes of this muscle weakness include injury due to pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, pelvic surgery, chronic cough and getting older.”
Molebatsi says that women with pelvic floor function disorders may present with a variety of symptoms including:
- Urinary function: Feeling an urgent and frequent need to urinate, involuntary urine leakage. Leaking urine when you cough/laugh/exercise, difficulty with initiating a void or complete emptying of the bladder and recurrent urinary tract infections.
- Pelvic organ prolapses: Feeling or seeing a bulge in the vagina or something coming out of the vagina, feeling heaviness or fullness or pain in the vagina.
- Bowel function: Chronic constipation, inability or difficulty holding or controlling gas, involuntary leakage of stool.
- Sexual function: Decreased Libido, *dyspareunia, altered body image resulting in embarrassment.
How to do your kegels
Molebatsi adds that kegel exercises can be performed lying down, sitting or in a standing position and entail voluntary contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles.
“A pragmatic recommendation is usually 45 pelvic muscle exercises per day, 15 at a time, 3 times a day,” he says.
“To improve muscle strength, contractions should be sustained for 2 – 10 seconds, depending on the patients’ initial ability. The muscle should be contracted for up to 10 seconds each time with an equal amount of time allowed between contractions, for the muscles to recover. Improvement is gradual with increasing muscle strength and can be evident by the fourth week of training, continuing up to six months.”
Health For Mzansi: Word of the day
*Dyspareunia: According to Mayo Clinic, dyspareunia refers to the medical term for painful intercourse. The pain can be described as sharp or intense and occurs before, during or after sex.