Real talk: We don’t talk about the pelvic floor nearly as much as we should. This important set of muscles at the base of the pelvis supports the uterus, bladder, and bowel (large intestine). Pelvic floor strength is one of those things you don’t think about until something — in this case, usually peeing a little bit when laughing, jumping, sneezing, or coughing — goes wrong.
When you think about it, the pelvic floor has an incredibly difficult job, and yet, most people don’t do much (or anything at all) to help strengthen it. That’s where Kegel exercises come in. Whether they’re postpartum Kegels, or urinary incontinence treatment, these internal exercises help keep the pieces of your pelvis in place. Here’s what to know about Kegel exercises, including the benefits, and proper techniques.
What are Kegel exercises?
As we’ve mentioned, Kegel exercises help strengthen the pelvic floor, which, in turn, supports the bladder (decreasing urine leakage), as well as prevents tragedies like pelvic organ prolapse (if you don’t already know what this is, don’t do a Google Image search if you’re feeling squeamish). In addition to going through pregnancy and childbirth, people may also find that their pelvic floor has weakened as a result of aging, weight gain, or gynecologic surgery, according to MedlinePlus.
How to Find Pelvic Muscles
Before you start with the actual Kegel exercises, it’s important to find the right muscles first. To do this, pretend you’re trying to avoid passing gas, or tightening your vagina around a tampon, Harvard Health explains. Another method, care of MedlinePlus, involves inserting a finger in your vagina, then tightening the muscles as if you are holding in pee, then letting go. When you do this, you should feel the muscles in your vagina tighten and move up and down, while your thighs, butt muscles, and abdomen remain relaxed.
How to Do Kegel Exercises
Now that you know how Kegel exercises are supposed to feel, it’s time to get started. Here’s what to do, per MedlinePlus:
Empty your bladder, then get into a sitting or lie down position.
Breathe deeply and relax your body.
Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Hold tight and count 3 to 5 seconds.
Relax the muscles and count 3 to 5 seconds.
Repeat 10 times, 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, and night).
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you can do Kegel exercises pretty much anywhere: While working at your desk, driving, on the subway, watching TV, gardening — you name it.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises help you to keep from peeing or pooping your pants — what else do you want out of them? Turns out, they do have other benefits: specifically, ones that improve your sexual health and pleasure. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Kegel exercises can also help improve your sexual health and pleasure by:
Relaxing your vaginal muscles, which lets your vagina be more open. This is helpful if you have pain during sexual intercourse, pelvic exams, or both.
Improving blood circulation to your vagina and pelvic floor. This can help increase sexual arousal.
Making it easier for you to reach orgasm.
Increasing vaginal lubrication (wetness).
How do you know if you’re doing Kegels correctly?
Ideally, taking the time to identify the correct muscles to use in Kegels will mean that you end up doing them correctly, but it is possible that even after doing that, something still is amiss. The biggest clue that you’re having Kegel trouble is that doing the exercises is painful for you. They definitely shouldn’t hurt, so if they do, bring it up with your health care provider to see what’s going on.
How long does it take for Kegel exercises to work?
According to the Mayo Clinic, you can expect to see results like fewer bladder leaks as soon as a few weeks, or after several months — that is, as long as you’re doing them correctly. Then, once you start to notice a difference, it’s important to keep going and make Kegels part of your daily wellness schedule.