What are they?

Pelvic floor or Kegel exercises are a learned technique of relaxing and contracting the muscles surrounding the vagina, urethra (tube from the bladder to the outside), and rectum.  These exercises are designed to strengthen and improve voluntary control of the muscle that surrounds the urinary opening.

Two suggested techniques for identifying the correct muscles:

  • Place a finger inside the vagina.  Squeeze around the finger.
  • Stop the flow of urine in the middle of urination.

Both of these techniques can identify the muscles that should be exercised.  However, it is very easy to use the wrong muscles. Keep in mind that you are not exercising your abdominals, your buttocks or your thighs. Place a hand on your lower abdomen while doing the exercises.  If you feel tightening, you are using the abdominals, which is incorrect. To decrease this muscle contraction, take slow deep breaths and re-identify the correct muscles.

How are they performed?

After you have identified the correct muscles, contract the muscle for 10 seconds, and then relax for a period of 10 seconds.  In the beginning, do not become discouraged if you are unable to hold your contraction for 10 seconds. This will improve with time.  Also, remember that the 10 second period of relaxation is just as important as the period of contraction.

  • Twenty exercises should be performed three times a day.
  • Pelvic floor exercises can be performed any time, any place.  When the exercise is performed correctly, no observer can detect that you are performing it.

When should these exercises be done?

If you have primarily stress incontinence (leaking with coughing, sneezing, laughing, etc.):

  • Contract the Kegel muscle during activities that you know may make you leak.
  • Kegels exercises will help to reduce or prevent leakage.

If you have primarily urge incontinence:

  • Do not run to the bathroom.
  • Stop! Contract your pelvic floor muscles.  Take some deep breaths. Walk at a normal pace to the bathroom.