Muscles grow weak if not exercised regularly, including those that comprise the floor of your pelvis. Weakness of your pelvic floor muscles may contribute to urinary leakage, a problem that affects approximately 50 percent of American women, according to Dr. Yashika Dooley and colleagues in a 2008 article in the "Journal of Urology." Practiced for a few minutes each day, Kegel exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, increasing support of your urinary and genital organs and potentially enhancing your sexual experience.
Things You'll Need
- Time to concentrate
- Anyplace you feel comfortable
- A little energy
Find Your Focus
Locate and gain control of your pelvic floor muscles by voluntarily mimicking everyday uses of them. Attempt to stop your urine stream when emptying your bladder; the muscles used to stop urine flow are your pelvic floor muscles. Don't be discouraged if you cannot completely stop your urine stream. The objective of this process is to learn how to control the muscles you will contract when performing Kegel exercises.
Wash your hands, then lie down and insert a finger partially into your vagina. Squeeze the muscles of your pelvis until you feel your vagina contracting around your finger. When you feel pressure on your finger, you've identified the muscles you will be using when performing Kegel exercises.
Repeat these focusing steps until you feel confident that you know what muscles to exercise. You may need several days of practice until you can contract your pelvic floor muscles at will. Taking the time to find your focus will make your Kegel exercises more effective in the long run.
Choose two or three convenient times of day to begin your daily Kegel exercise practice. For example, you can do one set before getting dressed, another during your lunch break and your final set after your nightly bedtime routine.
Empty your bladder before beginning a Kegel exercise session.
Contract your pelvic floor muscles for a slow count of three, then relax them for the same period. Count to yourself by thinking, "Squeeze, one, two, three, relax, one, two, three." Repeat the contraction and relaxation cycle 10 times during each practice session when you first begin performing Kegel exercises.
Alternate performing Kegel exercises in sitting, standing and lying positions. Some women change their body position during each practice session, performing a few exercises in each position. You can also choose a different body position for each session. For example, sit while performing your morning Kegel exercises, stand for your midday set and lie down for your evening set.
Gradually increase the number of Kegel exercise repetitions you are performing to 25 to 50 contractions per session. Then start to gradually increase the period of holding your contractions to a slow count of 10.
Continue your Kegel exercise sessions as part of your daily routine.
Tips & Warnings
- Breathe normally while performing Kegel exercises to ensure continued oxygen delivery to your pelvic floor muscles.
- Avoid contracting the muscles of your thighs, buttocks and abdomen when practicing Kegel exercises. Placing your hands on these areas when performing Kegel exercises will remind you keep the muscles relaxed.
- Don't skip the relaxation phase of each Kegel exercise cycle. Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles between contractions allows the muscle fibers to rest and reinforces your voluntary control.
- Be patient; it takes time to build strength in your pelvic floor muscles. Depending on the number of repetitions you perform and the frequency of your practice, it may take up to six weeks before you experience a noticeable improvement in your pelvic floor muscle strength.
- Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions or experience difficulty trying to performing Kegel exercises.
- Urinary incontinence can occur for a variety of reasons in addition to pelvic floor muscle weakness. Talk with your healthcare provider if you experience repeated episodes of urinary incontinence. You may need medical tests to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
- Kegel exercises should not cause pain. If you experience pain when performing pelvic floor exercises, consult your healthcare provider.
- Severely weakened or damaged pelvic floor muscles may lead to sagging or protrusion of the pelvic organs into the vagina. If you notice an unusual bulge inside your vagina or protruding through the vaginal opening, contact your healthcare provider.
- Journal of Urology: Urinary Incontinence Prevalence: Results From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Yashika Dooley et al.; May 29, 2007
- AUA Foundation: Pelvic Floor Muscle ("Kegel") Exercises
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Pelvic Support Problems
- MayoClinic.com: Kegel Exercises: A How-To Guide for Women
- "The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health"; Karen J. Carlson et al.; 2004
- National Kidney & Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Urinary Incontinence in Women
- "Incontinence"; Paul Abrams et al.; 2009
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
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