Pelvic Floor (Kegels) Exercises for Urinary Incontinence
What are pelvic floor exercises?
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 pelvic floor exercises?
Often the pelvic floor muscles are weak. This can lead to urine or poop leaking and pelvic organ prolapse. Studies show doing these exercises:
- Makes your muscles stronger when the exercises are done regularly and with the right technique
- Makes many symptoms better
- Is risk-free, low cost, and painless
How do I do pelvic floor exercises?
Many people are not sure what muscles to squeeze at first. Work with your provider to learn the right technique.
You can also check 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 passing 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 pelvic floor exercises?
- 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 people do them for 5 minutes before getting up in the morning and 5 minutes before going 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. This helps you maintain your strength and with symptom control.
Should I change anything when the pelvic floor exercises 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.
- 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 if Kegels are not successful on your own. Your care team can refer you to the Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy Team. Learn more at: Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy | University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics