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Kegel exercises are exercises that can help women strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that support the urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum). They are a type of pelvic floor muscle training. Stronger pelvic floor muscles can help reduce urine leakage associated with urinary incontinence. They can also increase muscle strength for childbirth. These muscles can become weak over time and can be affected by childbirth, so doing these exercises after pregnancy will help with recovery.
It can take 3-6 weeks for Kegel exercises to make changes, so be patient. Fortunately, these exercises can be done anytime, anywhere so they are easy to add to your day.
Kegel exercises are simple, risk-free, and painless. They involve squeezing the pelvic floor muscles.
It may be difficult to initially identify the correct muscles. You may mistake contractions of your abdominal or thigh muscles as pelvic floor muscle movements. Here are some tips to help you identify the correct muscles:
The muscles you tighten are the muscles you should contract during Kegel exercises. If you continue to have problems identifying these muscles, talk to your doctor or nurse.
After you have identified your pelvic floor muscles, you are ready to begin doing Kegel exercises. These muscles will react to exercise like any other muscle. You may experience mild muscle soreness when you first begin doing these exercises. If you do too many exercises before you are ready, you might experience more pronounced muscle soreness and fatigue.
When you are comfortable with the exercise, you can do them for 5 minutes, 3 times a day. You can do them lying down, sitting, and standing.
The following tips may help you remember to do your Kegel exercises:
Loss of bladder control is common, especially as you get older. Kegel exercises offer you the benefit of trying to solve the problem without medical treatment. A few minutes a day, a few times a day may make a big difference. Keep them up because you will only benefit from these exercises if you continue to do them.
Society of Gynecological Surgeons
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Women's Health Matters
Kegel exercise tips. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/urinary-incontinence-women/Pages/insertC.aspx. Updated April 2014. Accessed August 8, 2016.
Kegel exercises. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/kegel-exercises. Updated August 2015. Accessed November 20, 2014.
Newman DK. Pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation using biofeedback. Urol Nurs. 2014;34(4):193-202.
Urinary incontinence in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed August 8, 2016.
Last reviewed August 2016 by Michael Woods, MD Last Updated: 8/8/2016