It seems that kegel exercise trainers are popping up everywhere these days. Vaginal weights, kegel balls, vaginal eggs, jade eggs, and electronic kegel trainers are becoming prevalent choices for training the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor issues are quite common, but few women feel comfortable enough to talk about them.
1 in 3 women experience pelvic floor problems, including up to 80% of pregnant women and new moms. A weak pelvic floor can be a result of genetics, participation in high-impact sports, chronic constipation, natural aging, pregnancy, and childbirth. Often, a weak pelvic floor presents as bladder leakage issues when a woman laughs, coughs, sneezes, or runs, also referred to as stress urinary incontinence (SUI).
Other symptoms of pelvic floor issues include lower back pain, poor posture, and pelvic organ prolapse (in which the pelvic organs sag down into the vagina). These issues can affect women of all backgrounds and can occur regardless of whether they have had children. Fortunately, these issues are curable with specific types of kegel exercises that can be done to limit and prevent symptoms altogether.
A Kegel is a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, the hammock-like muscles that surround and support the bladder, vagina and uterus, and rectum. Performing pelvic floor strengthening exercises, which are also referred to as Kegels, by contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles helps to train the muscles to stop bladder leaks, reduce pressure in the vagina from pelvic organ prolapse, and improve core stability for support of the lower back and hips.
The proper way to perform Kegels is to imagine shutting off the flow of urine midstream. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles, and they are the muscles that need to be exercised. So make sure you know how they feel when they contract and relax.
While the abdominal, back, and side muscles will slightly tighten with this exercise, they should not be pulled inward forcefully, as this will overpower the pelvic floor muscles. Likewise, contracting your buttocks should be avoided. Exercising the wrong muscles can result in pain in your abdomen or back and cause you to miss the benefits of the exercises.
However, a note of caution here: While it is essential to exercise the right muscles, don’t perform your Kegel exercises by starting and stopping your urine stream just because you are confident those are the right muscles. This can lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder and an increased risk of a urinary tract infection.
Breathing is also very important during Kegel exercises. Holding your breath places pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor, making it very difficult to contract the muscles properly. The breathing pattern for Kegel exercises is to inhale and remain relaxed, and then exhale as if you were blowing out birthday candles, and simultaneously perform a Kegel.
To practice Kegels, begin by lying down on your back with your knees bent and your feet planted hip-width apart.
Inhale and remain relaxed.
Exhale gently as if you were blowing out birthday candles and simultaneously contract the pelvic floor muscles as if you were going to shut off the flow of urine. Hold this contraction for 5 seconds. Then inhale and relax.
Repeat this 10 times, and do 8 to 10 sets per day to treat bladder leakage and pelvic organ prolapse.
Kegel exercise weights, also referred to as vaginal weights or Kegel balls, add resistance to the pelvic floor muscles to help coordinate them and strengthen them. This is beneficial for women who experience weakness of the pelvic floor muscles after surgery, injury, or straining from constipation. Having children can also cause a weak pelvic floor, as the muscles become weak after carrying the weight of the baby and the internal organs during pregnancy.
The great thing about vaginal weights is that they are easy to use. A weight goes into the vagina just like a tampon, and then you can move on with your day doing household chores, taking a shower, or getting the kids ready for school. You will be using your pelvic floor muscles to keep the weight in place. After just 15 minutes of using the vaginal weight, the workout is done for the day. Typically, urinary incontinence requires that you perform 80 to 100 regular Kegels per day, which takes considerably longer than 15 minutes and is difficult to remember to do with a busy schedule.
High quality vaginal weights should be made from medical grade, BPA-free, body-safe silicone. Other non-toxic options include jade, but, generally, medical grade, smooth silicone is smoother and more comfortable going into the body. Also, high quality silicone weights are easy to clean with just mild soap and water.
Using vaginal weights such as the Intimate Rose Kegel Exercise System can produce stronger pelvic floor muscles in a shorter timeframe then simply performing Kegel exercises because the pelvic floor muscles receive added resistance. The weights also help you identify where the muscles are located so you can be sure you are performing Kegels properly. If you do not contract the muscles properly, the weight will simply slide out of your body.
To find the proper weight to start your exercises with, begin by placing the white weight into the vagina just as you would a tampon. Stand up and attempt to hold the weight inside the vagina for 1 minute. If this exercise is easily achieved, attempt to walk around doing light household chores with your clothing on as you normally would Keep the weight inserted for 10-15 minutes.
If this can be achieved quite easily, on the following day, attempt to do this with the next heaviest weight. If the weight falls out into your underwear, go back down to the previous weight that you were able to maintain for 15 minutes. The pelvic floor muscles are actively engaged in order to keep the weight in.
In order to train the pelvic floor muscles to react quickly to prevent urine leakage during higher exertion physical activities commonly performed throughout the day, such as exercising and lifting heavy objects, it is necessary to train them during these types of tasks.
The goal of these exercises is to build up coordination and control of the pelvic floor muscles during daily tasks, such as walking the dog, walking up and down stairs, and shopping.
To do this, insert the vaginal weight that you were able to maintain for 15-20 minutes, and then do the following exercises 3-5 times per week:
There are many forms of electronic Kegel exercisers. They often utilize biofeedback by providing a visual display and/or sound to let the user know they are contracting the vaginal muscles properly. Many electronic Kegel devices such as Elvie or kGoal sync up with smart phone apps to provide a game or image to encourage the user to do their exercises and to inform them if they are doing them properly. Some electronic Kegel devices connect to a computer and provide visual feedback via images on the computer screen.
There is a wide variety of electronic Kegel trainers. They require an electronic sensor that is placed into the vagina like a tampon and a visual terminal of some sort. Some devices are engineered to sync with a smart phone via an app. Some apps provide very basic visual feedback on the intensity and duration of the pelvic floor muscle contraction, such as a bright line that rises and falls as the user performs Kegels.
Some apps show a little icon on the screen that moves up and down along with the contractions. The app challenges the user to push the icon upward and hold it for a given amount of time, with fun competitions and advancement in levels as the user becomes more skilled at performing Kegels. This provides motivation and a great way to track progress.
Some units come with their own portable screens that are attached to the vaginal sensors via wires. The visual screens range in complexity from simple lines rising and falling to images of flowers opening and closing.
Electronic Kegel exercise programs are not better than Kegel weights for several reasons. First, they are often three times more expensive, ranging from $199-$3000 for a portable unit. And because they rely on technology, if something goes wrong with the unit, they are difficult to fix. If the unit does not come with a warranty, you are left with one very expensive paper weight.
Second, the primary goal of an electronic Kegel exerciser is to provide feedback as to whether Kegels are being done properly, however some devices are not sensitive enough to pick up on very slight contractions, so the user is told that no contraction is happening when in fact the muscles are beginning to work, just not to the level that the device can sense. Some units also have difficulty sensing muscle contraction when they are too close in proximity to other electronic devices, even those that run on regular electricity such as overhead lighting, microwaves, or televisions.
In addition, that previously mentioned primary role of the electronic Kegel exerciser is to inform the user whether Kegels are being performed properly is readily met when using vaginal weights because if the user uses the wrong muscles (for instance the abdominals instead of the pelvic floor muscles), the weight will be pushed downward and out of the body, informing the user immediately that the wrong muscles were used. In fact, vaginal weights were created with this goal in mind – to provide resistance to the pelvic floor muscles by using a device that allows the user to know whether they are using the muscles properly.
Some devices provide electrical stimulation to artificially activate the muscles. Over time that could actually lower sensitivity in the area if it is overused. The muscles could become tired and unable to function properly. Also, the electric contractions do not work against much resistance even if the device inflates because the air pressure doesn’t provide a lot of resistance to the muscles.
Furthermore, if you have any hardware or devices in your body, including an intrauterine device (IUD), metal or other materials from surgery (pins and screws), joint replacements, or a pacemaker, you cannot safely use the electronic Kegel device. The electricity can interfere with cardiac pacemakers, and may impact other devices.
The final verdict? Fixing bladder leaks and pelvic organ prolapse is easier with the use of a device, whether it’s electronic or not. If you happen to need electrical stimulation to cause contractions in order to get you started with a Kegel exercise plan, or if you are motivated by games, enjoy using technology, and want your progress tracked via an electronic app, then you might benefit from an electronic kegel exerciser.
With many options available on the market, finding a device that is discreet has become easier. The price point on electronic devices has yet to come down, so be ready to spend a few hundred dollars for a home unit.
On the other hand, if you want an easy, cost effective way to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to address bladder leakage or pelvic organ prolapse in a timelier fashion with the ability to multitask, then pelvic floor strengthening weights are for you. They don’t require you to sit and watch a screen. They don’t require wires, batteries, or chargers. And they are discreet and easy to travel with. Plus, with a color coding system like Intimate Rose’s, they allow you to clearly track your progress by moving from one color up to the next color.
For more information on how to do Kegels, how to use vaginal weights to reach your goals, and other women’s health related issues, visit www.IntimateRose.com.