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Pumping Up Your Pelvic Floor

Giving birth can do a number on the muscles responsible for supporting your bladder, uterus, and rectum. As the baby makes his way out, your pelvic-floor muscles are pulled, stretched, and sometimes torn or cut. All this stress can weaken the muscles and can contribute to problems such as incontinence. But like the rest of the muscles in your body, your pelvic floor can be strengthened. You just have to do your Kegel exercises. Here's how:

1. Isolate the muscles. You can do this by stopping your urine flow. You can also feel their movement by placing your fingertips on your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) and coughing. You'll feel a downward push.

2. Practice. Either sit in a chair with your legs slightly apart, lie on the floor, or simply stand still. Contract the muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then relax. If that's too difficult, try holding for 3 to 5 seconds, building as you get stronger. Repeat at least five times in a row, working up to 15 repetitions. Try to do at least three sets throughout the day. Practicing the exercises in the different positions will make the muscles even stronger. And because no one will ever be able to tell when you're exercising, you can do them anywhere.

3. Work the floor only. Be careful not to contract your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. If you are, you're not working the right muscles. Try the muscle-locator techniques above. If those don't work, ask your physician for assistance.

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