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.
Simple, Risk-free, and Painless
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:
- Sit on the toilet and place one finger in your vagina. Squeeze your finger with your vaginal muscle. You should be able to feel the muscle tighten around your finger.
- Imagine that a tampon is going to fall out of your vagina. Tighten your pelvic muscles in order to hang onto it.
- Imagine that you are trying hard not to urinate or pass gas. Squeeze those 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.
Doing the Exercises
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.
Things to Remember
- Do not do these exercises while urinating. It can interrupt the flow of urine which may lead to other problems.
- Empty your bladder before beginning the exercises.
- Keep your abdominal and thigh muscles relaxed.
- Draw the muscles up and in. Do not strain down with your abdomen.
- Breathe while holding the muscles contracted.
- Try to get the maximum tightening with each muscle contraction.
- Try contracting the muscles while you are in different positions. Try it while you are standing, sitting, lying, and with your feet together and apart.
How to do Kegel Exercises
- Lie on the floor. Choose a place that is comfortable, such as in your bedroom.
- Find your pelvic floor muscles. Again, to do this pretend you are trying to stop urinating or passing gas.
- Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, hold, and count to three.
- Relax for a count of 3.
- Squeeze again for 3 counts, then relax for 3 counts. Do this 10-15 times.
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.
Making Kegel Exercises a Habit
The following tips may help you remember to do your Kegel exercises:
- Try to schedule your Kegel exercises at the same time every day, such as during a regular TV show, while you do the dishes, or before you go to bed.
- Find a way to remind yourself to do your Kegel exercises. For example, you could put a note or sign on your mirror or refrigerator.
- You may forget to do your exercises for a few days. It is common to have a few slips when you are trying to make any new change. Do not get discouraged. Just get back to your exercise program.
- Chart your progress on a daily or weekly basis. If you were leaking urine before, you should begin to notice that you are leaking urine less frequently or in smaller amounts.
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