Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor, and doing Kegels with weights can help women perform them correctly. Let’s dig in. As we age and after having children, many women begin to suffer from embarrassing and inconvenient urinary leaks. It can happen at the worst moments, such as while laughing with friends or on a morning run. These bothersome leaks cause women to avoid doing the things they love. This is commonly due to weakened pelvic floor muscles, and can be improved by performing pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises).
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the muscles that support the vagina, rectum, and bladder. This helps to treat urinary incontinence and keep it from getting worse. Early intervention can help to prevent the need for invasive surgery in the future and will decrease or remove the need to wear pads. It can also help to treat pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the uterus, bladder, or bowel sags into the vagina. Some women also say that pelvic floor exercises can help to tighten the vagina and increase sexual satisfaction.
What are Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises are one of the best ways to maintain bladder health. These exercises help to strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles, which provide support for the vagina, rectum, and bladder. It involves repeatedly contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. Men and women can contract their pelvic floor muscles for around 5 seconds, and then relax for 5 seconds. This should be done around 10 times, up to 3 sets a day. One might need to build up to this by increasing the time and number of sessions. Kegel exercises should be done every day and it is best to follow a set regimen for the best results. As with any other exercise, results do not happen overnight. However, many begin to see improvement within 12 weeks.
There are many obstacles that get in the way of performing Kegel exercises effectively and efficiently. The first is that a proper Kegel exercise regimen will require multiple sessions a day, every day. It is common to have trouble remembering to exercise daily, but it’s even more challenging to have to remember to exercise multiple times a day. Many women, especially busy mothers, simply forget to do them as often as required. Another issue is that a quarter of women are not performing Kegels correctly. It is common for women to clench their buttocks by mistake or push outwards. A simple way to be able to identify the pelvic floor muscles is by using the bathroom. To stop urination midstream, the pelvic floor muscles are correctly being squeezed.
What exactly are Kegel weights?
Kegel weights are small weights that are inserted into the vagina. It is common for women to keep them inserted while performing Kegel exercises, and some will even keep them inserted throughout the day. They have been used for thousands of years, but have been regaining popularity in the recent decade. In ancient China, many believed that a strong vagina and pelvic floor muscles would increase their life force energy. Archeologists have discovered ancient Kegel weights in the form of Jade eggs, and there are even detailed renaissance paintings depicting their use. Jade eggs, also called yoni eggs, are egg-shaped weights that are made from natural Jade that was common in ancient China. They are still used in modern times.
Kegel weights range of different sizes and weights. As the shape implies, you might know them as Kegel balls, Kegel cones, Ben-wa balls and Kegel drops. With the emerging interest in crystals and gemstones, many women are gravitating towards Kegel weights that are made from crystals such as rose quartz or clear quartz. It is a common belief that these crystals have added healing properties. The weights can also be made from metal or other materials and may have an outside silicone lining. The main point is that are heavy and provide resistance. Usually, a set of different weights are bought so that the resistance increases as the pelvic floor muscles get stronger. Kegel weights can be found at common pharmacies and big box stores, to boutique sex or metaphysical shops.
Why do women do Kegels with weights?
Kegel exercises have been clinically proven to benefit pelvic floor health. Many women believe that performing Kegels with weights will make it easier for them to utilize Kegel exercises in order to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The medical benefits of strengthening pelvic muscles include reversing and preventing incontinence, treating pelvic organ prolapse and preventing atrophy of the muscles. In addition, it is also believed that stronger pelvic muscles will help to tighten the vagina and improve sexual satisfaction.
Some also believe that doing Kegels with weights can benefit pregnant women by making labor and delivery easier and faster, and that it may reduce recovery time. (Some other electronic pelvic devices are unavailable for pregnant women, so passive Kegels with weights provide a good option.) Finally, as previously mentioned a quarter of women find it difficult to identify the correct muscles that they must squeeze, and so performing Kegels with weights can help them to identify their pelvic floor muscles. They are typically inexpensive to purchase and do not require a prescription from a physician, which makes them convenient to use on a budget.
How to use Kegel weights:
- Empty your bladder before starting.
- Thoroughly wash and dry the Kegel weights with antibacterial soap. (Start with the lightest weight first.)
- Lubricate the weights with a water-based lubricant so that they are easy to insert. Lubricant can also be applied to the opening of the vagina. It is important to relax so that the vaginal muscles are not tensed and will allow the weights to be inserted easier.
- Insert the weight slowly into the vagina. It may help to first lie on your back. Some weights have a string or cord attached which should be kept outside of the vagina to make removal easier. It is very similar to inserting a tampon.
- Perform Kegels weight weights by squeezing and contracting the pelvic floor muscles around the object. This will help keep the weight from falling out of the vagina and are necessary for Kegel exercises. The exercise is held for 5 seconds, and then the woman may relax. This is then typically repeated 5 times and is done 3 times a day. This can be increased as time goes on, or increasingly heavier weights can be used. Perform Kegels with weights 3-4 times a week for the best results.
- Remove the weight by relaxing your muscles. A lubricant may be applied to the vaginal opening if needed. The string is then gently pulled to remove the weight, and it must then be washed and air-dried. To prevent infections, do not leave the weights in for extended periods of time.
The risks of performing Kegels with weights:
- There is a high risk of infection when women use Kegel weights. Since it is a foreign object that may not be properly sanitized, it increases the risk of bacteria being introduced into the vagina. This can cause yeast infections and urinary tract infections, which are uncomfortable, painful, and can exacerbate urinary leaks. Some women keep their weight inserted for many hours at a time, and this further increases the infection rate.
- The weights may also irritate the vagina. Some women may be allergic to or sensitive to the materials that are used in the weight. There are also different chemicals and toxins that may be present in the weighted balls. Kegel weights are not FDA cleared, so there is no regulation for what materials or chemicals may be included.
- The vagina and pelvic floor muscles can also become strained or overexerted from the weights. This can cause discomfort, pain, or soreness. It can even cause incontinence to become worse.
- Kegel weights also come in various different weights and sizes. If the weight is not heavy enough, it may not be effective at all. If the weight is too heavy, or your muscles get tired… imagine, and yes Google is full of these stories, forgetting you have the weight inside of you or having to answer the front door, and with a cough, whoops! The weight falls to the floor with a clang and you proceed to pretend like something didn’t just fall out of your body. There are stories of this happening at work or while grocery shopping!
Are Kegel weights a good option?
Without proper treatment, urinary incontinence will become worse. The most effective treatment and prevention for urinary leaks are by strengthening the pelvic floor muscles with Kegel exercises. Performing Kegels with weights is a beneficial supplement to basic Kegel exercises, and they are helpful for women who need assistance identifying the correct muscles to contract. They are inexpensive and budget-friendly, and don’t require a trip to the doctor.
However, Kegel weights are not scientifically proven to help treat urinary incontinence and may come with more risks than rewards beyond learning which muscles are which. Performing Kegels with weights may be inconvenient and can result in embarrassing mishaps if the weights fall out while coughing or moving around in a public setting. There is also a high infection risk because the weights are foreign objects that can introduce bacteria into the vagina (especially if a constant change of weight sizes is needed.). It can even cause uncomfortable irritation and allergic reactions.
In summary: Try the weights to help you find which muscles should be squeezed, but after that Kegels with weights are probably not worth the effort or risk of infection. If you can’t perform Kegels well or often enough, and there are clinically effective devices, FDA-cleared, such as ELITONE, that can do Kegels longer and strong than you can do on your own.
Author: Julia Daly, LPN