Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises During and After Pregnancy
The pelvic floor is a "hammock" of muscles attached to the pelvic girdle. These muscles hold the pelvic organs in place. Pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises strengthen your lower pelvic muscles. This helps prevent a long period of pushing during labor.1 Start doing daily Kegel exercises while you are pregnant, and continue doing them after childbirth.
See a picture of the pelvic floor muscles.
During pregnancy and delivery, the pelvic floor can become stretched and weakened, commonly causing urine control problems (urinary incontinence) for months to years after childbirth. A weakened pelvic floor can also allow one or more pelvic organs to sag, as in the case of uterine prolapse. Doing regular Kegel exercises helps prevent urine control problems (incontinence) after childbirth.2, 3
How to do Kegel exercises
- Identify the pelvic floor muscles involved by purposely stopping the flow of urine in midstream and then allowing the urine to flow again. These are the muscles that squeeze the urethra and anus.
- Remembering what it felt like to control these muscles during urination, try to contract them when you are not urinating. If your stomach or buttocks muscles tighten, your pelvic muscles are not being exercised correctly.
- Tighten your pelvic muscles. Hold for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds.
- Repeat the Kegel exercise 10 to 15 times a session. Try to do this 3 or more times a day.
Kegel exercises are only effective when done regularly. They can be performed while traveling, at work, or at odd moments during the day. For example, Kegel—creator of the exercises—recommended doing 5 pelvic floor exercises when you first wake up, 5 more when you get out of bed, and 5 pelvic floor exercises every half hour all day long.3
- Salvesen KÅ, Mørkved S (2004). Randomized controlled trial of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy. BMJ, 329(7462): 378–380.
- Mørkved S, et al. (2003). Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy to prevent urinary incontinence: A single-blind randomized controlled trial. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 101(2): 313–319.
- Lentz GM (2007). Physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction, and incontinence: Surgical and nonsurgical treatment. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 537–568. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
Last Revised: July 23, 2012
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