Kegel Exercises (Pelvic Floor Exercises) for Women
What are Kegel Exercises or Pelvic Floor Exercises?
Due to a number of factors (age, childbirth, weight gain, and injury amongst them) it is possible for a woman’s pelvic muscles to weaken to varying degrees. This can lead to a number of problems, including urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Kegel exercises are special clench-and-release exercises that strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, reducing the likelihood of you developing these problems (or aiding your recovery if you already have them).
How are Kegel Exercises for Women Performed?
Note: Please read through our “Precautions to Take While Doing Pelvic Floor Exercises” section below before attempting to perform Kegel exercises.
Finding the Appropriate Muscles.
There are three ways to find the muscles you need to clench and release during Kegels.
- The next time you urinate, stop yourself midstream. The muscles you clench to halt the flow are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Alternatively, lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and apart. Imagine that somebody is going to stick a needle into the region between the vagina and anus. Pull that region inwards and away from the imaginary needle. If you’re successful, then you’ve managed to locate the pelvic floor muscles.
- You can also identify the appropriate muscle by imagining that you’re trying to avoid passing wind. The muscles you contract to keep gas from passing are your pelvic floor muscles.
- Clench or contract your pelvic floor muscles.
- Hold them in for 2 seconds.
- Relax those muscles for a few seconds.
- Repeat (up to ten times, if possible).
As your muscles get stronger over the weeks, you should be able to increase the amount of time for which you maintain each contraction — 4, 6, 8, and then 10 seconds. Remember to increase the rest period between each contraction accordingly so that your contractions are more effective.
Your target should be to perform a set of 10 contractions two to four times a day (with each contraction lasting 10 seconds). A 10-second break between each of the 10-second contractions is considered ideal.
Pelvic floor exercises for women can be performed anywhere — whether while waiting for a red traffic light to change, during a TV commercial, after going to the toilet, or while lying down in bed.
Important: Precautions to Take While Doing Pelvic Floor Exercises.
- Clenching your pelvic muscles midstream to stop your urine flow can actually weaken your bladder. Therefore, after you’ve identified the appropriate muscles, don’t perform Kegels while urinating. For the same reason, don’t perform Kegels on a full bladder, either.
- Don’t hold your breath or contract your buttocks, thighs, or abdomen while doing your pelvic floor exercises. If you find yourself doing this, relax, and then attempt to draw in the pelvic floor muscles through less forceful contractions.
- Don’t “strain down” when performing your Kegels instead of drawing up your pelvic muscles. This is a mistake that women often make and can be harmful. To keep from straining down when you contract, exhale gently and keep your mouth open each time you tighten your muscles. Rest a hand lightly on your stomach. If you feel it pushing out against your hand, you are still straining down.
Kegel Exercises for Women with Urinary Incontinence
Though pelvic floor exercises typically pay off in the long run, they can have immediate benefits too. If you suffer from urinary incontinence (problems with bladder control) Kegels may be able to prevent embarrassing leakages. The next time you find yourself about to sneeze, cough, or perform an action that typically results in leakage, clench the muscles of your pelvic floor. Keep them clenched throughout the activity. Planned pelvic muscle contraction has been shown to reduce or eliminate these leakages.
For more information on treating urinary incontinence, visit our page on Incontinence Treatment Options.
When can you expect to see results?
Muscles can’t be strengthened overnight, so don’t be discouraged if the results aren’t evident as quickly as you would like. If you make Kegels a part of your daily routine, you should see results within a few months — or perhaps even within weeks. If you’re worried that you aren’t doing your Kegels correctly, talk to Dr G about the right way to perform pelvic floor exercises.