I like to consider myself a fit and athletic person. I love running, and working out has always been a part of my regular routine. But Kegels are not the kinds of exercises I ever considered all that important before giving birth. Now, with a 5-month-old on my hip and having had to change my pants on numerous occasions after sneezing–not to mention whenever I jog a hill–I fully realize the benefits of having a strong pelvic floor.
When I left the hospital with my 2-day-old baby, our midwife stressed the importance of my squeezing those nether muscles on a daily basis. Birth takes a toll on the body and pushing out a baby can make it harder to control your peeing habits (see sneezing and jogging examples above) while also making you prone to pelvic organs sagging–this is known as prolapse. Actually, your uterus can start to fall through your vagina. Yikes, right?! To avoid these kinds of unthinkable issues, I vowed to do Kegels whenever I was nursing, figuring that would be a natural time to do the exercises and allow for plenty of practice. Turns out, it was way too ambitious. I was breastfeeding for hours every day and it was often my only break from playing baby games, changing diapers, rocking her to sleep, or soothing away her tears. The last thing I wanted to do in such an exhausted state was manually tighten my pelvic floor. So I ended up spending most of that nursing time on my iPhone checking emails or zoning out on Facebook.
Then a little device called Elvie came to my attention. It’s an exercise tracker for the pelvic floor that instructs you on exactly how to exercise and tallies your progress along the way. I was intrigued but skeptical. I was curious to find out if this egg-shaped gadget really could quantify my most inner brawn and I always love a physical challenge (see my post on drug-free childbirth). But I was doubtful that I’d get any long-term use out of it since I’m not a Fitbit wearer and I usually keep it analog when it comes to my gym routine. Although Elvie promises improved core strength, increased bladder control, and even better sex, I wasn’t sure I’d be all that impressed with the results.
I used Elvie every day for two weeks and couldn’t believe how easy it was to fit into my already hectic routine. It involves inserting the little device into your vagina like a tampon and then launching the Elvie app on your smartphone to connect and follow the guided exercises. You can do it standing up or lying down, and the exercise itself is simple: Just engage the pelvic muscles you would if you’re trying to suddenly stop peeing. I wasn’t all that worried about using Elvie in my most private parts. Having a baby really expanded my comfort zone in that area. And it was never uncomfortable or painful.
Soon, I was practically skipping to my bedroom after putting the baby to bed so I could do my quick five-minute workout and see just how much I improved (or didn’t) from the previous days. The app guides you through a series of exercises that feel more like video games than rote reps and sets, and then draws a simple, user-friendly line graph illustrating your strength. For women who thrive off of honest feedback, this is like a little gift at the end of every session. I was over the moon when I jumped from 27 to 44 LVs of power. And I knew I had to kick it up a notch when I fell back down to 22 a few days later.
The device also challenges you over time and gives you opportunities to set new personal records, like how many pulses you can do in a row or how long you can squeeze at a clip. I discovered I was pretty good at the long holds and needed to focus on the pulse work. Besides the measurable details, Elvie also tells you whether you’re doing the exercises correctly or not. This is something a lot of women struggle with. Who wants to waste time doing it all wrong? I was glad to find out I had been doing them properly.
But that doesn’t mean my work with Elvie is done. Far from it. The five-minute sessions are now a permanent part of my early evening. The only time I may need to take a break from Elvie is during future pregnancies, depending upon my doctor’s recommendation. Actually, I should have been doing Kegels regularly since before giving birth–every woman stands to benefit for her overall vaginal health–and now that I’m in the midst of my childbearing years, it’s even more critical that I keep things in place. And my running shorts will be all the better (and drier) as a result.
Whitney C. Harris is a freelance writer living in Westchester, NY. She had her first child, a daughter named Rowan, last summer. Find her at whitneycharris.com.