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What Are Kegel Exercises?

What Are Kegel Exercises?

Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles at the bottom of the pelvis. These muscles are often called the "pelvic floor" because they help to hold the pelvic organs (such as the bladder, bowel, and uterus) in place so that they work well.

If these muscles don’t work well, there can be problems such as:

  • incontinence (when pee or poop leaks) or other problems with peeing or pooping
  • prolapse (when a pelvic organ bulges downward because it isn’t well-supported)
  • pain during sex

Doing Kegel (KEE-gul) exercises can help to strengthen the muscles and improve symptoms caused by these problems, even though the effects of the exercises can't be seen from the outside.

Pregnancy can injure or weaken the pelvic floor muscles. That’s why it’s a good idea for pregnant women to talk to their doctor about whether Kegel exercises can be helpful for them.

How Are Kegel Exercises Done?

Kegels are easy, and you can do them whenever you have a few seconds — sitting in your car, at your desk, or standing in line at the store. No one will even know you're doing them!

To find the correct muscles, pretend you're trying to stop in the middle of peeing. Squeeze those muscles for a few seconds, then relax. You're using the correct muscles if you feel a pull. Or place a finger inside your vagina and feel it tighten when you squeeze. Your doctor can also help you identify the correct muscles.

What Else Should I Know?

When you're doing Kegel exercises:

  • Don't tighten other muscles (stomach or legs, for example) at the same time. You want to focus on the muscles you're exercising.
  • Don't hold your breath while you do them — it's important for your body and muscles to keep getting oxygen while you do any type of exercise.
  • Don't regularly do Kegels by stopping and starting your flow of pee while you're actually going to the bathroom. This can lead to incomplete emptying of your bladder, which increases the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Jan 1, 2023

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