I’ve always disliked this term. I hadn’t ever fully fleshed out why until earlier this year, when I read a beautiful Instagram post by Latham Thomas of Mama Glow about the colonization of womens’ bodies by men. There are at least 5 glands and parts of the female pelvic anatomy alone named after male anatomists or physicians, and a long list of other anatomical parts throughout our body named for the men who “discovered” them. That list includes the elusive “G-spot”—named after Ernst Grafenberg (spoiler: it doesn’t actually exist!)
Arnold Kegel was a gynecologist in the 1940’s who was the first to publish anything about pelvic floor exercises, which he named after himself. That’s why they’re called kegels. That’s it.
I have learned over the years how much baggage the term carries. Just last week I had a patient say (and I’ve seen this a hundred times) with a little guilt in her eyes: “I’ve been really bad with doing my kegels.” Guilt! That’s often what I hear when women talk about “kegels”. They are this thing that women may or may not have been told to do by their doctor, or maybe just read about in Cosmo, but they don’t really do them, or they tried and “it didn’t work” so they quit. Often times women ask with skepticism what I can do for them, because they already tried kegels and “failed.” My response: Do you really know how to do the exercise?
There have been several studies done assessing if a woman is doing a pelvic floor contraction (PFC, I’m not saying the other name anymore) correctly. The consensus seems to be that around 40% of women who have been taught verbally (either by a doctor or written instruction) know how to contract the muscles correctly. The others are either not doing anything at all, squeezing other muscles instead (hey glutes and inner thighs!), or they are actually doing them backward—pushing out instead of pulling in.
So how do you contract the muscles correctly? Check out this post on PFC’s. I wanted to rant about the colonization of female bodies first, and that topic deserves a full post.
On to you: what’s your experience with the word “kegels”? What emotion does the word bring up for you? Please share below—I’m really curious!