When my first baby was born, I remember the maternity nurses telling me to empty my bladder often. They really emphasized it, and I wasn’t sure why until I was waddling from my hospital bed to the bathroom and all of a sudden felt like I was peeing my pants. Turns out that a baby flying through your lady parts can do some damage to your pee-holding parts, too. I recovered most of my “abilities,” but add a couple more pregnancies, a couple more birth experiences and time to that equation, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be my old self again. On a pelvic floor strength scale, I’m somewhere between “Not peeing myself when I sneeze when I really concentrate” and “Can’t jump rope with a full bladder.”
But this isn’t where I want to be. I want to be “Can jump rope after pounding 20 ounces,” so today I’m calling in pelvic floor specialist at Minna Life, Liz Miracle, MSPT, WCS. Minna Life created the kGoal ($149), a smart Kegel trainer. You read right: This Kegel trainer is smartphone compatible and tracks your performance and gives feedback to improve your workout. Crazy, right? I asked Liz about some pelvic floor basics, and she shares her thoughts about the kGoal and good old fashioned Kegels.
High impact exercise can be hard for those with pelvic floor weakness. What can we be aware of during high impact exercises that may give us problems? Any tips for lessening the impact? High impact exercises are likely to put stress on pelvic floor muscles because of the impact from feet touching the ground. Gymnastics, running and trampoline sports reported to be ones with most urinary leaking complaints. Shortening the workout may help in lessening the impact as studies report that fatigue in the pelvic floor muscles are shown after performing strenuous physical activities for 90 minutes. Choosing exercises with less impact — like hiking up a hill (puts pelvis in proper alignment for improved pelvic floor tension), Spin class, swimming, Pilates, yoga and the elliptical machine set to the “hill or glute” setting — may also help to avoid damage to the pelvic floor muscles.
Is doing Kegels enough? Is there anything else a woman can do to support pelvic floor health? In addition to practicing Kegel exercises, women should choose good posture when sitting — don’t sit with your tailbone tucked. Remember, the pelvic floor muscles work best when the pelvis is tilted just ever so slightly forward. When exercising your pelvic floor muscles be sure that you are not only lifting, but also fully releasing. Muscles function best within their full range of motion.
How can you make sure you’re doing a Kegel properly? What should it feel like? An easy way to know if you’re doing your exercises properly is by using devices designed to guide women through Kegel exercises such as kGoal by Minna Life. kGoal provides visual and tactile biofeedback to guide exercises for better results. Its innovative design and sensor technology offer the actionable data that women can use to gauge how much they are developing the strength of their pelvic floor muscles. When using kGoal, it should feel like you are squeezing in the back like trying to keep gas from escaping and squeezing in the front like you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
How long does it take to see improvement? How much/how often should these exercises be done? It can take anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months to see results, depending on how frequently the exercises are performed and other factors. For healthy women, two to three times a week can be sufficient. For those who are experiencing significant weakness they should considering practicing their Kegels three times a day.
Does losing pregnancy weight assist with pelvic floor recovery? If a woman is over her regular weight, regardless of it being pregnancy weight or not, losing the extra pounds will absolutely help reduce pressure on the pelvic floor from above. General fitness in combination with regular exercise of the pelvic floor muscles and good posture are an excellent approach to improving pelvic floor health.
A big thanks to Liz for answering our burning questions. I guess I need to keep up with the Kegels for now — and consider some technology. Do you work your pelvic floor regularly? —Erin
• Aletha Caetano (2012). Incontinence[A1]: Physical Activity as a Supporting Preventive Approach, Urinary Incontinence, Mr. Ammar Alhasso (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0484-1, InTech, Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/books/urinary-incontinence/-female-urinary-incontinence-physical-activity-as-a-supportive-preventive-approach-
• Effect of weight loss on urinary incontinence in overweight and obese women: results at 12 and 18 months (2010). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20643425