Did you know doing Kegel exercises after menopause offers many benefits? Many women’s health care professionals recommend women do these pelvic floor exercises daily to help prevent many common issues during menopause. Talk to our provider about whether Kegel exercises are right for you and how to include them in your lifestyle.
Never heard of Kegel exercises before? These are essentially exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor helps support the organs in your pelvis, such as the uterus, bladder, rectum, and vagina.
With age, these muscles can start to become weaker. What’s more, lower estrogen levels during menopause can also contribute to a weak pelvic floor. This puts you at risk for many different issues, such as pain during sex, difficulty controlling your bladder or bowels, or even uterine prolapse.
Some other things that might contribute to weak pelvic muscles include:
Fortunately, Kegel exercises can help make your pelvic floor stronger and are fairly easy to incorporate into your every day routine.
Kegel exercises were developed in the 1950s by a gynecologist named Arnold Kegel. He studied the use of pelvic floor exercises for women with urinary incontinence. Today, many women’s health care professionals recommend Kegel exercises for women of all ages because of their many benefits. This is especially true for women during and after menopause who are more likely to experience pelvic floor weakening and related conditions.
So, why might you start doing Kegel exercises after menopause? Since your pelvic floor supports a lot of important organs, it’s important to keep these muscles strong. This can also help with the function of your pelvic organs.
Millions of women experience urinary incontinence (UI), which can take the form of anything from small leaks when you sneeze or even having accidents because you’re unable to reach the restroom in time. Your risk for this condition increases with age and after menopause due to lower estrogen levels.
Many women with urinary incontinence deal with a reduced quality of life. A lot of those with UI change a lot about their lives due to the condition, like avoiding going places due to fear of leakage. Many also feel embarrassed and isolated socially because of the condition.
If you have UI, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care provider about causes and treatments. One common recommendation for urinary incontinence is doing Kegel exercises. Stronger pelvic muscles may help you hold your urine in more effectively until you can make it to the bathroom.
One study from 2018 even found that regular pelvic floor exercises helped improve quality of life for those with urinary incontinence. So, Kegel exercises may be used both as a preventative measure and a treatment for urinary incontinence.
Uterine prolapse is a somewhat common condition, and your risk for it goes up after menopause. This is where your uterus starts to sag lower than normal, sometimes entering the vagina (a partial prolapse) or even protruding outside of the vagina (complete prolapse).
Some symptoms of uterine prolapse include:
These symptoms may also get worse when you’re standing or walking, as gravity can pull on the prolapsed uterus.
If you have uterine prolapse, Kegel exercises may be the recommended treatment for mild cases. In other cases, you may need surgery to remove the uterus or put it back in place.
However, Kegel exercises may also help reduce your risk for experiencing uterine prolapse. Generally, the reason the uterus slips down from its normal position is due to a weakened pelvic floor. Therefore, keeping these muscles strong may help provide the support needed to prevent uterine prolapse.
Another issue Kegel exercises can help with is intimacy after menopause. As your estrogen levels start to fall, you might notice vaginal dryness or pain, especially during sex. Kegel exercises help in a few different ways.
First, a common reason you might experience pain during sex is due to tight vaginal muscles. Kegel exercises can help you relax these muscles so they’re not as tight and painful during sex.
Also, pelvic floor exercises can help increase circulation to the pelvic floor and vagina. Better blood flow to the area can help improve arousal and lubrication. In some cases, doing Kegel exercises regularly may even help improve orgasms.
All this can come together to help improve intimacy after menopause. So, Kegels may even help your sex life!
Did you know about one-third of women who do Kegel exercises are actually doing them wrong? That means they may not get any of the benefits of doing Kegel exercises. Your women’s health clinic can help you determine whether you’re doing Kegel exercises right and offer some tips to help you with Kegels during your next checkup or appointment. However, here are some general tips that may help you learn how to do Kegel exercises.
Remember how we mentioned about a third of women aren’t doing their Kegels right? In many cases, this is because they’re actually flexing other muscles, like the buttocks, abdomen, or legs. Finding the right muscles for Kegel exercises can be a little difficult, but we do have a few tips.
First, it might help if you lie down while you try to find the right muscles and get used to doing pelvic floor exercises. While you can do them in practically any position, like sitting at a red light, it’s much easier to contract the muscles when you’re lying down.
A lot of guides say that the easiest way to find the right muscles is to stop the stream of urine when you’re going to the bathroom. While this can help you find the right muscles, doing this can make it difficult to fully empty the bladder, which can cause other issues like urinary tract infections. Instead, we recommend pretending you’re trying to avoid passing gas, or to tighten your vagina around a tampon. This can help you find the right muscle group.
If you’re still having trouble finding the right muscles, lie down and insert a clean finger into your vagina and try to do a Kegel. You should feel the muscles tighten around your finger.
Also, try placing a hand on your abdomen when doing your Kegel exercises. This can help you feel any unintended muscle contractions in your abdomen. If you’re contracting your abdominal muscles, there’s a good chance you’re doing your Kegel exercises wrong.
Once you have the hang of which muscles to contract, you can start doing them regularly to help reap the benefits of a strong pelvic floor.
If you’re just starting out, then you may need to work your way up to longer contractions and multiple reps. Generally, one rep is contracting the pelvic floor for three to five seconds and relaxing for three to five seconds. For most women, aim to do about ten reps two or three times a day. Once that becomes easier, you can even try mixing them up by holding for longer, like ten seconds, or even shorter, like two or three second bursts.
Just keep in mind that doing Kegel exercises too much can make your pelvic floor muscles too tight. This can cause issues like:
If you notice these signs of a tight pelvic floor, then try giving your muscles a break from Kegels for a little while. If your symptoms don’t improve, visit our women’s health care team for help finding underlying causes, like overworking the pelvic floor muscles or even other health conditions.
At HerKare, we’re a women’s health clinic dedicated to your wellness. Our team is here to help you feel your best at every stage of life. Whether you’re looking for advice on maintaining a healthier lifestyle or need to talk about symptoms you’ve noticed, we take time to listen, understand, and work with you to find personalized health solutions for you. Be proactive about your health. Schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations today.