Kegel exercises (also called “pelvic floor exercises”) strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels don’t just help keep them “fit” -- they can help you avoid embarrassing accidents, like bladder leakage and passing gas and -- or even stool -- by accident. They can even improve your orgasms.
The Case for Kegels
When they’re working like they should, your pelvic floor muscles may never cross your mind. But over time -- as we age -- these muscles can start to weaken. This puts us at risk for a condition doctors call “pelvic organ prolapse” (POP). Basically, your pelvic organs start to droop. They can start to fall into or out of your vagina. Sometimes, if you’ve had a hysterectomy, your vaginal tissues can start to come out of your body, too.
Other things that put you at risk for POP include:
- Giving birth through the vagina
- Surgery in the pelvic area (C-section or hysterectomy)
- Frequent coughing, laughing, or sneezing (it pushes on the pelvic organs)
How Do I Do Them?
Sit on the toilet and try to pee. Once urine starts to flow, squeeze your muscles to hold it in. You should feel the muscles inside your vagina “lift.” You just did one Kegel. Relax the muscle and do it again.
Start slowly. Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds, then release for 3 seconds. Do this 10 times in a row. That’s one set. If you can’t do 10, do as many as you can and build up over time. Try to work up to one set of 10 Kegels two to three times a day.
Kegels aren’t harmful. In fact, you can make them a part of your daily routine. Do them while you’re brushing your teeth, driving to work, eating dinner, or watching TV. But don’t get into the habit of doing them while you pee. You can actually cause other problems, like urinary tract infections.
How Long Before I See Results?
Most women who do Kegels regularly see results (such as reduced urine leakage) within a few weeks or months. If you’re still concerned about your prolapse or don’t feel your symptoms are getting better, talk to your doctor about other treatments.