by Alyce Adams, RN, BSN, "the Kegel Queen"
Midwives are experts at applying low-tech, low-cost health care strategies that promote self-care and help women avoid the dangers of unnecessary interventions. Every midwife is familiar with the cesarean epidemic and with the safe, simple approaches that can keep birthing women out of the operating room.
But many health care providers and consumers don't know enough about another surgical epidemic affecting women. Each year, 200,000 US women have surgery to treat urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Eleven percent of women in this country will have this type of surgery by the time they're 80 years old — that's a lifetime risk of one in nine. Of those who have surgery to treat prolapse, one third will end up back in the operating room at least once.
Millions more will suffer without any treatment at all: 50% of women will experience urinary incontinence at some point in life, and 50% of mothers will have some form of POP.
Kegel exercises — when performed correctly — are a highly effective treatment for urinary incontinence and POP. The exercises are simple, promote self-care, and they're completely safe. The only side effect is better sex! But most people don't realize how effective kegels can be to solve these health problems without surgery, because they don't have the facts about correct kegel technique.
Check out these popular kegel myths. Do you have the facts?
Myth: Kegels are intentional contractions of the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle.
Fact: Correct kegel technique involves the entire pelvic floor, not just the PC.
Myth: Women should do kegels whenever they think of them — at a boring meeting, at a red light, or waiting in line.
Fact: There are three reasons this approach to kegels doesn't work. First, effective kegels are sustained, high-intensity muscle contractions. Real kegels require your full attention. If you're trying to drive and do kegels, you'll either do weak, useless kegels or crash the car. Second, you must relax the pelvic floor fully after each kegel contraction. This complete relaxation requires your full attention as well. Finally, research shows that women who do kegels "whenever" simply don't end up doing them. Doing kegels on a regular schedule and connecting kegels with preexisting daily routines is the way to succeed.
Myth: Women should do 200 kegels a day, or more.
Fact: Too many kegels can lead to hypertonic pelvic floor muscles and pain with intercourse. A few dozen kegels a day is all you need — then far less for maintenance over time. Correct kegel technique takes just a few minutes a day.
Myth: Truly effective kegels require a kegel device.
Fact: Devices make kegels complicated, messy, and inconvenient. Study after study shows excellent kegel results with no devices at all.
When done correctly, kegels can eliminate prolapse symptoms, stop incontinence, and transform women's sexual health. Get the facts!