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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Kegel exercise

The Kegel exercise strengthens your pelvic floor.

The location of your pelvic floor muscles.

These muscles form a figure eight around your urethra, vagina, and anus and support your bladder and uterus. (See drawing.)

Pregnancy and birth can cause these muscles to lose tone. This can result in discomfort and a loss of bladder control. Doing Kegel exercises during pregnancy and after your baby is born can reduce these effects.

This exercise can also help you recognize if these muscles are tense or relaxed. It is helpful to be able to relax your pelvic floor when you are pushing in labor.

The first time you do this exercise, empty your bladder. While still sitting on the toilet, imagine that you have to stop the flow of urine. The muscles that you tighten are your pelvic floor muscles. After you have identified these muscles, you can do the Kegel exercise anywhere. You can stand, sit or lie down.

How to do the Kegel exercise

You may do the Kegel exercises while standing, sitting or lying down. Follow these steps:

Important

Don't do a Kegel exercise when you are urinating. If you keep starting and stopping the flow of urine, you could get a urinary bladder infection.

  1. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as much as you can. You should be able to feel the muscles lift up and draw in.
  2. Hold these muscles tight for 5 seconds. If they start to let go, retighten them.
  3. Breathe normally. Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed. Don’t tighten your buttocks or thighs.
  4. After you reach the count of five, relax the muscles.
  5. Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat the exercise.
  6. Do a series of five Kegels.
  7. After resting a couple of minutes, do another series of five Kegels.
  8. Plan to do 50 Kegel exercises (10 sets of five) each day.
  9. After you can do 50 Kegels a day, lengthen the time you hold the muscles tight. Instead of holding the muscles tight for only 5 seconds, work up to holding them for 20 seconds. You will need to retighten the muscles several times over the 20 seconds. This is called a super Kegel.
  10. Rest after doing a super Kegel and wait a few minutes before doing another one.
  11. Plan to do 10 super Kegels a day. Spread them out over the day.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts

 


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