Kegel exercises for urinary incontinence

What are Kegels?

They are pelvic floor muscle exercises. They are done to make the muscles that support the urethra, bladder, uterus, and rectum stronger. To do them you tighten the muscles inside your pelvis.

Why should I do Kegels? 

Often the pelvic floor muscles are weak. This can lead to urine or stool leaking and pelvic organ prolapse.

Studies show doing Kegels:

  • Makes your muscles stronger when the exercises are done regularly and with the right technique
  • Makes many bothersome symptoms women have better
  • Is also risk-free, low cost, and painless

How to do Kegels: 

Many women are not sure what muscles to squeeze at first. Work with your provider to learn the right technique.

You can also check yourself by placing a finger in your vagina and squeezing.

You are using the right muscle when you feel:

  • Pressure around your finger
  • Your finger draws in and up (not pushed out or down)

Tips to help you do it right are:

  • Do not bear down or push.
  • Keep your other muscles (stomach, legs, buttocks) relaxed.
    • Do not squeeze your thighs, back, bottom, or abdominal muscles.
  • Tighten the right muscles by thinking about lifting up and in.
    • Think about contracting the muscles you use to stop urine or passage of gas.
    • Breathe slowly and deeply.
  • It may be easier to start doing these exercises when lying down. As you get stronger you can do them while sitting or standing.

How often should I do Kegels?

  • Be sure you are doing them the right way before you start a routine.
  • Always empty your bladder before starting.
  • Have a routine or link them with something you do every day. 
    • Many women do them for 5 minutes before they get up in the morning and 5 minutes before they go to sleep.
    • Do them while watching TV or stopped at a traffic light.
  • Do 10 squeezes 3 times each day.
  • Hold each squeeze and count to 3. Then relax and count to 3.
    • You may not be able to do it 10 times or hold it while you count to 3 at first.
    • Slowly hold the squeeze longer, until you can hold it up to a count of 10.
    • As you practice and your muscles get stronger it will be easier.

When will my symptoms get better?

It takes some time for your muscles to get stronger. You will need to do Kegels regularly for at least 6 weeks before you can expect your symptoms to get better.

After your symptoms are better, keep doing Kegels to maintain your strength and symptom control.

Should I change anything when the Kegels get easy?

You can make your muscles stronger by:

  • Doing more than 10 squeezes.
  • Doing them in more challenging positions (standing, sitting, having your knees apart).
  • Squeezing quickly followed by relaxation or squeezing for longer amounts of time.

Additional helpful hints

  • Listen to music. This can make it more fun.
  • Keep a calendar. Give yourself a check mark or star each time you do Kegels. This will help you keep track of when you started and keep you motivated.
  • It takes regular practice to see results. If you stop, start again.
  • Reach out to your provider if you are having trouble. Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist may help you strengthen and coordinate your pelvic floor muscles.
Last reviewed: 
May 2020
Alternative Names: 
Kegels

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