And how can I take care of mine?
What is it?
The pelvic floor is the set of muscles at the base of your pelvis. They’re how you regulate urination and defecation; they’re the muscles that relax to allow the rectum and ureter to open up so you can go to the bathroom. In people with a uterus, the pelvic floor is larger in order to accommodate the birth canal, and there are often more complications with pelvic floor muscles. But everyone has a pelvic floor, and if you’re having issues with incontinence, it might be that you need to strengthen your pelvic floor.
What are some problems with the pelvic floor?
People of all ages can suffer from issues with their pelvic floor. On one end of the spectrum, there are pelvic floor disorders that make it harder to go to the bathroom, because the pelvic floor muscles don’t contract properly. Often these are treated with relaxation techniques, and, less frequently, with surgery. On the other end, and far more common, is incontinence, which is where stool or urine can leak a little. For some people it happens when laughing or sneezing, for others, when lifting heavy things or doing athletic movements that put pressure on the area.
Kegels to the rescue
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is beneficial for everyone. In addition to helping with incontinence and preventing issues during pregnancy, a stronger pelvic floor can contribute to better sex. For people with a penis, strengthening the pelvic floor can help you control ejaculation better. For those with a uterus, a stronger pelvic floor can contribute to stronger and more intense orgasms. And the way to strengthen: Kegel exercises.
How to do Kegels
Here’s how to do it: First, isolate your pelvic floor muscles. To do this, imagine that you are stopping urinating mid-stream, or holding in a fart. (You can also practice by actually stopping yourself from peeing mid-stream, but don’t do it too often, for your bladder’s sake.) Don’t move the muscles in your butt, stomach, or legs, and don’t hold your breath. You should be able to tense and release these muscles independently.
Once you’ve located your pelvic floor muscles, tighten and hold for 3-5 seconds, then release, and rest for 3-5 seconds. Repeat 10-15 times. Try to do this three times a day, every day. If you don’t see results after about 6-8 weeks, talk to your doctor. For people with vaginas, there are also weights and other devices you can insert in the vagina to help you isolate and train the pelvic floor.
The great thing about Kegels is that you can do them just about anytime; when you’re watching TV or sitting at your desk at work, or really anytime you think of it. Many people find it easiest to start by trying them while laying in bed. As with any exercise, consistency is key, so try to set a routine and stick with it! Happy Kegel-ing!