I laughed so hard I peed myself. It’s only funny when it’s not true, but it is way too true for many women! Studies show that 80 percent of us gals have trouble with incontinence at some point in our lives. However, just because it is common, does not mean it’s normal.
So, what can you do about it? It may sound cliche, but the infamous Kegels — pelvic floor exercises — really do work! You have to really work at them, though. Just like when you go to the gym and don’t see weight loss or bulging biceps after a week of workouts, you have to keep doing Kegels for 6 to 8 weeks before the muscles really ramp up their strength.
How to get started
Start somewhere quiet where you can really listen to your body. Lying down on your back with your knees supported is a great position for most people. Pull in at your pelvic floor — like you are trying to hold back gas or stop peeing. Take note: This is not a good exercise to do while you are peeing. There is a feedback loop between your pelvic floor muscles and your bladder that you confuse when you stop your pee mid-stream.
Hold for 10 seconds, if you are able to. Once you have a really good Kegel, start putting it into function. Do Kegels when you are standing at the sink washing dishes. Do Kegels when you’re waiting for a light to change. Do Kegels when you are watching commercials. Do kegels while you’re lying in bed procrastinating getting up. (They are a really good excuse to stay in bed longer!) Do them when you really need to pee and can’t get to a bathroom immediately.
Frequency is key
In order to build strength, the recommended prescription is to do 10, 10-count holds, eight times per day. That’s 80 reps. It takes time, but staying dry is well worth it! Only count repetitions that you really focus on. I talk to people very frequently who tell me they “do Kegels all day,” but when they actually keep track, they are doing much less than needed to make improvements.
Not having trouble in this department? Great! A maintenance/prevention program is 30 reps per day (three sets of 10, 10-count holds).
If you have been doing these exercises for 4 to 6 weeks and are not seeing an improvement, you may not be doing them correctly and need to seek more help. Talk to your OB doctor or a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor treatment.
Stephanie Drew is a physical therapist with Howard Head Sports Medicine in Edwards who specializes in women’s health, pelvic floor rehabilitation and orthopedics. She can be reached at Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org.