How Kegels Can Improve Your Sex Life
In 1948, Kegel exercises were introduced by physician and gynecologist Arnold Kegel, M.D., as a way to treat and strengthen injured pelvic floor muscles, improving bladder leakage and pelvic organ prolapse in his patients.
You may have heard practicing Kegels can lead to better orgasms and heightened sexual arousal as well, but is that true?
Here are the facts on the connection between these pelvic floor exercises and better sex.
Can Kegels improve your sex life?
There is a connection between pelvic floor muscle strength, sexual activity and orgasms. Since Kegels are essentially push-ups to strengthen your pelvic floor, you could say there is a correlation between practicing Kegels and better sex, according to Ashley Rawlins, D.P.T., a physical therapist and clinical learning and development lead at Origin Physical Therapy, based in Dallas.
Pelvic floor muscle strength is correlated with sexual function, suggested a 2021 study that focused on finding the connection between orgasms, sexual activity and pelvic floor muscle strength. This study indicated sexual performance is connected to the sense with which we perceive the position and movement of our body (proprioception) and pelvic floor muscle strength.
This study also suggested that while the frequency of orgasms and sexual intercourse can decrease with aging, the connection between sexual activity and pelvic floor muscle strength is apparent. Sexually active women and those subjects who had orgasms had better pelvic floor muscle strength than those subjects who were not sexually active.
While there are studies that suggest connections between pelvic floor strength, orgasms and sexual function, there is a lack of research indicating Kegels are certain to directly improve your sex life, Rawlins explained.
The correct way to perform Kegels
In order to enjoy the potential sexual benefits of Kegels, you need to make sure you are doing the exercises correctly.
You can practice doing Kegels by acting as if you are stopping the flow of urine during urination and contracting your pelvic floor muscles.
Rawlins said one Kegel repetition consists of a full pelvic floor muscle contraction, squeezing "up and in," followed by a full and complete pelvic floor muscle relaxation. Contract, hold, relax and repeat.
Tara Scott, M.D., an OB-GYN and the medical director at Forum Health in Akron, Ohio, advises patients to perform Kegels at least twice a day. They can even do sets of 10 when they are at a stoplight in traffic, she said.
Kegels, pelvic organ prolapse patients and better sex
Another study indicated that women with pelvic organ prolapse had more satisfying sex and sexual function after pelvic floor muscle training, although the study did not indicate what specific type of pelvic floor muscle training these subjects were practicing.
Kegels as pelvic floor muscle training for women with pelvic organ prolapse could lead to more satisfying sex and sexual function.
Other potential benefits of Kegel exercises
In addition to possible improved sexual function, Kegels can provide several other benefits.
Kegels can prevent bowel and/or bladder leakage during sex
We do know Kegels can help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles with resistance training, which can lead to optimal bowel and bladder control, Rawlins said.
"Kegels may help reduce your chances of having bowel/bladder leakage during sexual activity, which may be a libido killer," she explained.
"In my opinion, if your muscles do need strengthening, Kegels can be very helpful in increasing your awareness and confidence for this area of your body, which is certainly a positive thing to bring with you to the bedroom," she added.
Kegels might be able to boost your orgasm
The pelvic floor muscles used during Kegels are also active during an orgasm, so you may be able to get a boost from using Kegels during said orgasm, Rawlins suggested.
A word of caution, however: While it is suggested that Kegels could make sex more satisfying, there are instances where Kegels could actually make sex more painful.
"If you have tight and overactive pelvic floor muscles, Kegels may make sex painful [or] more painful, and possibly add an extra challenge to arousal and orgasms. Pain or fear of pain is a huge mood killer," Rawlins said.
Kegels after birth
The pelvic floor can get "stretched out" during pregnancy and delivery. Practicing Kegels can help strengthen your pelvic floor after birth.
Some women believe sex feels better when they have more muscle tone, so pelvic floor muscles strengthened by Kegels may make sex more enjoyable after giving birth, Scott explained.
Before practicing Kegels, you should check with your pelvic physical therapist to make sure Kegels are right for you, Rawlins suggested.
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