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Pelvic Floor Strengthening Tips

During the week I work as a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in Women’s Health! One area of my clinical expertise is in helping women regain strength, control, and coordination of their pelvic floor muscles. This is particularly important for mothers after carrying and delivering our children! I want everyone to know that it is very common for women to have difficulty with urine leaks and/or pelvic pain; however, this can be easily improved upon and shouldn’t just be accepted as a fact of life!

The pelvic floor muscles can be an elusive bunch because it's hard to feel them moving and working, and they are difficult to see! A pelvic floor contraction, or "kegel", should feel like a gentle squeeze upward and inward at the vagina. If doing this properly, you shouldn't feel your buttocks squeeze, legs move, or stomach holding back your breath. Although these muscles can stop the flow of urine, which may help you figure out how to contract the muscles as you do a kegel squeeze, it is not recommended that you do this urine stop test more than once because it can disrupt your normal nerve signaling patterns and possible increase urinary tract infection risk.

Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles and can squeeze them on command, start doing 10 squeeze and relax repetitions daily. You may also try squeezing and seeing how long you can maintain a kegel contraction, which can get longer as you practice. If you are a mom at risk for leakage with coughing, bending over, picking up baby, or jumping, use the following strategy: begin performing a kegel contraction immediately before you cough/bend/lift baby/jump and keep taught through the cough/bend/lift/lump. After you've completed the activity, relax your muscles back to normal. With some practice, this strategy can help minimize or prevent urine leakage. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel much happening or if you can't quite figure out how to do the kegel squeeze - it takes practice and perhaps training from your gynecologist or Women's Health Therapist.

In Stride, Leigh Wilfley