Kegel exercises are exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles that support the urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum). They are also called pelvic floor muscle exercises.
Kegel exercises are usually recommended for women with urinary or stress incontinence. Urinary incontinence often follows childbirth or menopause.
You may experience the following benefits if you do Kegel exercises on a regular basis:
- Stronger pelvic muscles
- Reduced urinary incontinence and leaking of urine
- Increased pleasure with sexual activity
Kegel exercises are very simple, risk-free, and painless. They involve squeezing the pelvic floor muscles. They can be done any time, anywhere.
Some women initially have difficulty identifying the correct muscles. They contract their abdominal or thigh muscles instead of their pelvic floor muscles. Here are some tips on identifying 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.
- While urinating, stop the flow of urine midstream by contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Do not do this repeatedly.
- 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 Once you have identified your pelvic floor muscles, you are ready to begin doing Kegel exercises. You may experience very mild muscle soreness when you first begin doing these exercises. If you do too many exercises before you are ready, however, you might experience more pronounced muscle soreness and fatigue. Starting out at the maximum number of exercises is not recommended. General Guidelines Dont do these exercises while urinating, stopping the flow of urine midstream. This could eventually lead to voiding difficulties.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 youre standing, sitting, lying, and with your feet together and apart. Week 1 Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds.Repeat 25 times. (This takes about 5 minutes.)Do this 3 times a daya total of 75 contractions. Week 2 Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax for 6 seconds.Repeat 50 times. (This takes about 10 minutes.)Do this 3 times a daya total of 150 contractions. Week 3 Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax for 6 seconds.Repeat 75 times. (This takes about 15 minutes)Do this 3 times a daya total of 225 contractions. Weeks 4-24 Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax for 6 seconds.Repeat 100 times. (This takes about 20 minutes.)Do this 3 times a daya total of 300 contractions. After 24 weeks Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax for 6 seconds.Repeat 50 times. (This takes about 10 minutes.)Do this 3 times a daya total of 150 contractions. Or you can try this variation:
Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 6 seconds. Relax for 6 seconds.Repeat 75 times. (This takes about 15 minutes.)Do this twice a daya total of 150 contractions. 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.Reward yourself for each day that you do your Kegel exercises. For example, you could put a gold star on your calendar.You may forget to do your exercises for a few days. Its common to have a few slips when youre trying to make any new change. Dont get discouraged. Just get back to your exercise program.Chart your progress on a daily or weekly basis. Eventually, you should begin to notice that you are leaking urine less frequently or in smaller amounts than before. It should also be easier for you to stop your urine midstream. (Note: You should not try this any more than once a week.) Resources Society of Gynecological Surgeons
http://www.sgsonline.org References Kegel exercises. Society of Gynecological Surgeons Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.sgsonline.org/patiented.php . Accessed on March 2, 2007 Kegel exercises. MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003975.htm . Accessed on March 2, 2007 Last reviewed February 2007 by Janet H. Greenhut, MD, MPH Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.