Kegel exercises (sometimes called “Kegels” for short) involve the repeated contracting and relaxing of the pelvic muscles. There are many different things that can cause stress on your pelvic muscles—pregnancy and childbirth most especially. The pelvic floor muscles can also be weakened by advanced age, obesity, chronic constipation, or certain surgical procedures.
Weak pelvic muscles can cause your pelvic organs to descend and bulge into your vagina, a condition known as pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse can cause uncomfortable pelvic pressure and leakage of urine and feces. Kegel exercises can help prevent this condition.
Benefits of Kegel Exercises
There are many benefits of doing Kegels:
- They strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that support your uterus, bladder, and bowels.
- They can prevent and control urinary incontinence.
- They can help you to prepare for childbirth.
- They can help to maximize female orgasm.
Kegel exercises are highly recommended during pregnancy. Kegels can help make a woman more comfortable as the due date approaches, and can also help to control urine leakage, which is very common toward the end of pregnancy and in some cases for an extended period of time after childbirth.
How to Do Kegel Exercises
Learning how to do Kegels takes determination, especially if you do not know how to identify your pelvic muscles.
To identify the pelvic muscles, try to stop the flow of urine and then start it again when you are using the bathroom. Be careful not to tighten the gluteal (large buttocks) muscles while doing this. The muscles doing the work should be your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that extend all the way to the back of your body.
Once you get the feel for flexing and relaxing these muscles, try doing the exercise while you aren’t urinating. If you can’t find your pelvic muscles, ask for help. If you feel as though you are tightening your stomach, you are probably not doing your Kegels correctly. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your doctor or healthcare provider.
Once you’ve found your pelvic floor muscles, you can begin doing exercises in “sets” or repetitions. Always make sure you’ve used the restroom and emptied your bladder before starting your exercises. You can either sit or lie down while doing Kegel exercises.
- Get into a comfortable position, either sitting, lying down, or in a squat.
- Contract your pelvic muscles and hold for three seconds.
- Relax your muscles.
- Repeat ten times.
As you gain more control over your muscles, you can increase your hold time. Do this gradually. Start with three seconds, then increase your time to four seconds, then to five seconds, until you can comfortably and easily hold your contractions for ten seconds.
It is recommended for women to do this exercise three times a day, every day. Be mindful that you’re only working your pelvic muscles and not your buttocks, abdomen, or thighs. As with any muscle, the exercise will get easier with time.
Once you are familiar with the muscles of your pelvic floor, doing Kegel exercises will become easier, and you may find that you no longer need to set aside a special time and place to do them. You may even find that you’re able to do your Kegels discreetly while sitting at your desk working, or while sitting on the couch at home, watching TV
Try not to get into the habit of doing Kegels while on the toilet. Doing this too often can result in incomplete emptying of the bladder, which in turn can put you at risk of a urinary infection.