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Kegel Exercises

What are Kegel exercises?

Kegel exercises help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help support the urethra, bladder, vagina, penis, uterus, and rectum. They are used when you urinate or have bowel movements. They are also used during sex, for example, during orgasm.

These exercises can be helpful to both women and men.

Why should I do Kegel exercises?

Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles may lessen and even prevent some bladder control problems, such as leaking of urine from the bladder. They may also help if you have a loss of control over bowel movements. In addition, they can improve sexual function. Kegels may help women who have uterine prolapse (fallen uterus) or pain during sex.

What causes bladder control problems?

Weakened pelvic muscles may allow urine to leak from the bladder. The muscles may be weakened by:

  • childbirth
  • aging
  • chronic coughing
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • frequent heavy lifting over time
  • injury
  • previous pelvic surgery in women
  • loss of the female hormone estrogen after women go through menopause
  • prostate surgery in men

How do I do Kegel exercises?

You can feel the muscles that need to be exercised by squeezing the muscles in your genital area. You might find that it helps to pretend you are contracting the pelvic muscles to stop a flow of urine or stop from passing gas.

  • Squeeze your pelvic muscles and hold the contraction for 3 to 5 seconds. Do this 10 to 20 times. Let the muscles relax completely between contractions.
  • Do these sets of contractions 3 to 4 times a day. You won’t get as much help from the exercises if you do them less often than this.

You can do Kegel exercises anywhere: while sitting at a desk, waiting for a bus, washing dishes, driving a car, waiting in line, or watching television. No one will know you are doing them.

Don’t do these exercises while you are urinating or having a bowel movement.

If you have a bladder control problem from weakened pelvic muscles and start regularly doing the Kegels, you may have less leakage of urine in just a few weeks. However, you may not notice a lot of improvement until after 3 to 6 months of daily exercises. You should keep doing Kegels every day to keep the pelvic muscles strong even if you do not feel a difference.

Women may want to ask their healthcare provider about cones that can be used to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The cones come in different sizes. You may start with a large cone. You put it into your vagina and try to hold it in place for 15 minutes a couple of times a day by contracting your pelvic or vaginal muscles. When this is easy for you to do, you may then try keeping a smaller cone in place. Your healthcare provider can order the cones from a surgical supply company.

Kegel exercises may be assisted with a probe that causes contractions of the pelvic floor muscles. The probe is put into the vagina and stimulates contractions with a mild electric current. This is called neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). You can further strengthen your muscles by squeezing them as they contract in response to the probe. However, this is not necessarily better than the basic, unassisted Kegel exercises.

How do Kegel exercises improve sexual function?

Kegel exercises can improve vaginal muscle tone and sensation. This can help women be more sexually responsive and may help improve orgasms. The exercises can also improve a man's sexual response and help delay ejaculation during intercourse. However, the chief benefit of Kegel exercises is that they may help stop the leaking of urine.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-01-21
Last reviewed: 2009-07-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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