If you've been pregnant and delivered a child, then you are probably familiar with one of the least appealing postpartum side effects: incontinence. It doesn't happen to everyone, but a significant number of women experience varying forms of incontinence after they have a baby. You know what we mean, right? Like when you pee yourself a little anytime you cough, sneeze, laugh, jump, or run. It can be a real problem! Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and effect the elasticity of the ligaments in your pelvic floor. Which, in turn, can cause some incontinence issues.
Women have been told that doing pelvic floor exercises like Kegel exercises can help with those little spritzes and sprays. But as it turns out, Kegels might not be the be-all-end-all of solutions, and can in fact be doing more harm than good in some women.
Kegel exercises are done by repeatedly contracting your pelvic floor muscles for several minutes, several times a day. You know when you clench your nethers to keep from peeing? Like that, but controlled repetitions. The idea behind Kegel exercises is that they will strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, tightening them up to repair the stretching and weakening that happens during pregnancy and childbirth. And that is true, they can help with that!
But, Kegel exercises may not be the answer to your pee prayers, if you suffer from certain pelvic floor dysfunctions. For example, according to Dr. Joanne Wolf, physical therapist and pelvic floor specialist at Hummingbird Physical Therapy in D.C., if your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, then Kegels are actually making the problem worse.
If you suffer from postpartum incontinence, before you start Kegeling away, it's best to see a pelvic floor specialist who can properly diagnose the problem and come up with a treatment plan that targets your issues. For some women, Kegel exercise will be the recommended plan of treatment. But others will need other pelvic floor therapy to address the root of their problem.
As with any exercise or lifestyle change, always make sure to talk to your doctor before you start. The last thing you want to do is make your problem worse, right?