The urethral sphincters are horseshoe-shaped muscles stacked atop each other, cradling your urethra. Unsung heroes of the urinary tract, your urethral sphincters act as a dam, controlling the flow of urine, at least until you can find a restroom. When childbirth or damage to the pelvic or vaginal nerves and muscles weaken the sphincters, stress incontinence can result, and then you may find yourself unable to "hold it," especially during brief, forceful actions, like coughing, laughing or moving something heavy. Fortunately, there are exercises to strengthen the urethral sphincters and help prevent "uh oh" moments.
Find the muscles used for your Kegels by urinating and squeezing your vaginal, or pelvic floor muscles, to stop the stream. Pretend you're holding back, waiting for the restroom. Relax your pelvic muscles once you're able to stop your urine stream.
Get comfortable by lying on a soft bed or floor. Relax your abs, glutes and thighs, concentrating on contracting only the urethral sphincters to ensure the muscles are effectively toned. Remember to breathe normally through each Kegel.
Squeeze and relax your pelvic muscles in intervals of 5 seconds. Start with five Kegels and work up to 10 reps, three times a day.
Sitting on the Ball
Select a ball that places your hips an inch or two above your knees to help keep your posture in check.
Center your glutes on an exercise ball and place your feet on the floor. Straighten your back and look ahead, focusing on an object in the distance.
Relax your arms, placing your hands on your knees. Spread your legs shoulder-width distance and press your tailbone into the ball.
Squeeze and tighten your urethral muscles and move your hips to the right. Move only from the hips, keeping your upper and lower body still, and hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds. Shift back to center and relax your muscles. Inhale and repeat while shifting to the left.
Repeat the pattern for 10 to 15 repetitions, or as tolerated, to strengthen your urethral sphincter muscles. Alternate contraction styles by doing one set holding contractions for five to 10 seconds and then switching to one set of rapid 5-second squeezes and 5-second releases as you move through each repetition.
Stay seated on the ball with your back tall. Rotate only your hips and pelvic bones during ball tilts. Spread your legs slightly wider than shoulder width and let your glutes and pelvis sink into the ball.
Inhale and feel your urethral sphincter meet the ball as you squeeze your muscles. Exhale and tilt your pelvis forward, moving the ball with you and then back to the starting position. Release the muscle contraction for one full breath.
Inhale, tighten your muscles and arch your lower back. Exhale and tilt your pelvis back, sliding the ball forward. Return your pelvis to center and relax. Repeat for a total of 10 tilts, front and back.
- Check with a doctor if you wish to add these to a postnatal program or to another urinary tract strengthening program.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.