What are Kegels?
Pelvic floor muscles (pubococcygeus muscles) support the uterus, bladder, and bowel. Many factors can weaken these muscles throughout one’s life, including pregnancy, childbirth, obesity, age, chronic cough, chronic constipation, and a genetic predisposition to weak connective tissue.
Kegel exercises are recommended for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles in an effort to delay and possibly prevent pelvic organ prolapse. This is where the pelvic floor muscles weaken, causing the pelvic organs to descend and bulge into the vagina. This causes discomforts including uncomfortable pelvic pressure, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction.
The condition is more common amongst older women, but it is possible for a young woman to have pelvic organ prolapse. Some causes of pelvic organ prolapse are vaginal birth, hysterectomy, and menopause.
During pregnancy, Kegel exercises are highly recommended by gynaecologists to ensure that the pelvic floor muscles are strong and well-toned. This not only helps prevent pelvic organ prolapse later on, but immediate benefits include more comfort towards the due date and less of a chance of developing pressure incontinence (urine leakage when coughing, sneezing etc) and urge incontinence (feeling the urge to go, but not being able to make it to the bathroom in time), which is common towards the due date because of pressure exerted by the growing baby on your bladder. This incontinence may even continue after childbirth. Conditioned muscles will also make a vaginal birth easier, and your perineum will more likely stay intact (fewer tears and episiotomies).
Kegel exercises are especially recommended after a natural childbirth and for women who have trouble reaching orgasm. The exercises tone the pelvic floor muscles and make the vagina tighter. A newly postpartum woman can do the exercises to help her pelvic floor muscles return to their pre-pregnancy strength.
Conditioned muscles make vaginal birth easier and safer
Prevent incontinence during and after pregnancy
Prevent later prolapse of pelvic organs
Sexual enjoyment is enhanced - for both partners
How to do Kegel Exercises
Find the right muscles
: Try to stop the flow of urine when you urinate. If you succeed, you've got the basic move. Don't make a habit of starting and stopping your urine stream though. Doing Kegel exercises with a full bladder or while emptying your bladder can actually weaken the muscles, as well as lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.
Perfect your technique
: Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and lie down on your back with your knees bent or supported by a pillow. Contract your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Repeat this five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
Maintain your focus
: For best results, focus on tightening only
your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
: three times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. You might make a practice of fitting in a set every time you do a routine task, such as checking email, commuting to work, preparing meals or watching TV.
: squeeze your leg or tummy muscles. If you feel your tummy move or your muscles are sore afterwards you are using more than just your kegel muscles. Don’t hold your breath. Breathe normally or count out loud.
When to Expect Results
If you do your Kegel exercises faithfully, you can expect to see results — such as less frequent urine leakage — within about eight to twelve weeks. For some women, the improvement is dramatic. For others, Kegel exercises simply keep problems from getting any worse. For continued benefits, make Kegel exercises a permanent part of your daily routine.
Kegel Exercises with Weights
By inserting weights into the vagina before doing the exercise, you can increase the speed by which the muscles strengthen. The principle is similar to lifting weights in a gym - as you increase the resistance by increasing the weight, your muscles adapt and grow stronger. The weights are not essential to a good Kegel program but will speed up your progress.
Ben Wa Balls (also known as kegel balls) are great for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Since the balls are weighted, you have to squeeze the muscles of your vagina to hold them in. The vibrations of the inserted balls send a signal to the pelvic muscles to remind them to squeeze. You can also increase resistance by tugging on the pull-out string while tightening your muscles to hold the balls in place.
Smartballs - The Smart Kegel Muscle Exercise Weight.
Smartballs are a sexy modern version of the ancient Chinese Ben Wa Balls. These kegel exercisers consist of two elastomer silicone balls. Inside each ball there is a metal rolling weight that creates a natural swirling motion as you squeeze your PC muscles and shift your body. The balls are connected by a smooth, firm silicone coating. This makes the Smartballs great for beginners as the balls will not click together when you move if your muscles are not strong enough to hold them in place. Smartballs are lighter than traditional metal Ben Wa Balls which is another plus for beginners, and they won’t set off metal detectors! The pull out string for easy removal is also silicone coated, making it hygienic as well as durable.
** NOW AVAILABLE IN SOUTH AFRICA!
How to Use Smartballs to strengthen pelvic muscles and support postnatal exercises,
- 100% Silicone
- Easy to clean
- Easy to insert and remove
- Length: 10cm (excluding pull out string)
- Diameter: 3,5cm
Empty your bladder before placing the balls in the vagina.
Insert one ball at a time lengthwise into the vagina until only the removal loop is outside the body. Putting lubricant on the balls will help them glide in. Inserting the balls is similar to inserting a tampon. If you’re not used to inserting tampons or if you’re having trouble, you should lift one leg up. If that doesn’t work, try inserting them while lying down.
Squeeze your leg muscles together and then your PC muscles together to hold the balls in. The balls should push down a little bit inside your vagina, and they will make your vagina feel “full”. Much like tampons, you should eventually get used to the feeling.
Hold the balls inside for at least 15 minutes a day to strengthen your PC muscles. As you get stronger you can hold them in for up to four hours for a better workout.
Keep moving! Whether you wear them around the house, out shopping or to the gym, you need to keep moving. Don’t worry – the Smartballs won’t fall out by the time you’re ready to wear them in public. They might slip a little low in the vagina which is uncomfortable so you’ll need to pop into the bathroom to readjust, but your underwear will prevent them slipping any further.
Can Kegel Exercises be Harmful?
No, Kegel exercises cannot harm you in any way. You should find them easy and relaxing. If you get back pain or stomach pain after you exercise, you are probably trying too hard and using your stomach muscles. If you experience headaches, then you are also tensing your chest muscles and probably holding your breath. Remember not to use your Smartballs with a full bladder. Start using your Smartballs only after all birth-related injuries have healed, the lochia has stopped and you have begun postnatal exercises.
Watch out for Hygiene Though: Cheap ben wa balls often have absorbent strings between the balls. This absorbs odours and moisture and becomes a breeding ground for germs if not cleaned correctly. Another aspect that deserves consideration is the material of the balls themselves: Your ben wa balls are going to be used internally for hours at a time, so it's important that you select your materials carefully. Jelly, rubber and latex balls are not ideal because they are porous and can absorb moisture and odours. This goes for any sex toys – choose silicone products wherever you can.
To Clean your Ben Wa Balls: A quick rinse under the tap is okay every now and then, but let the balls air dry instead of shutting them up in your cupboard straight away. Warm water is best with a mild soap. Do not use any harsh detergents, alcohol based products or abrasives. Towels and cloths tend to leave fluff behind on the surface so use a lint free cloth if you can’t leave your ben-wa balls out to air dry. Below are some specially formulated lubricants and cleaners for use on your kegel balls (and any other sex toys) that will make sure everything is kept hygienic and clean.
Order your Smartballs now! (from R235 )
Pjur Med Clean Spray, 100ml (R205)
Pjur Woman Lubricant, 100ml (R230)