How To Do Kegel Exercises Correctly + Benefits, According To An OB/GYN
Having strong pelvic floor muscles can improve sexual health and overall health of the vagina. With age, sex hormones start to naturally decrease, which leads to weakening of the muscles and dryness of the vagina.
While those changes are inevitable, they don't have to affect our quality of life (or the quality of our sex lives.) One way to support our sexual wellness is by engaging in Kegel exercises regularly—and more importantly, by making sure we're doing them correctly.
Finding your pelvic floor muscles.
In order to do your pelvic floor exercises correctly, it's important to know exactly where the muscles are. In order to identify them, try stopping you urination mid-stream. To do this, imagine you're bringing everything in your pelvic region up and together. That clenching sensation should activate the right set of muscles.
If you're still unsure, speak to your gynecologist or a pelvic floor physical therapist, and keep this graphic in mind:
Step-by-step guide to Kegel exercises.
- Visualize your perineal body1 (use the image above for context.) This is generally the region between the vagina and anus and often described as the "anchor of the pelvis."
- Pull up on the perineal body, exhale, and really feel those pelvic floor muscles come up and contract together.
- Hold that contraction for a count of three, then relax. (With practice, you may work your way up to a count of six or eight).
- Repeat three sets of eight lifts. Do this three to five times per week.
Keep in mind: While holding your pelvic muscles up, continue to breathe normally and stay relaxed so you don't create counterproductive abdominal pressure. Here: a video visualization.
How to check for results.
Remember the pee test from above? Not only can that help you identify your kegel muscles, but it's also a good way to test your progress. When you start to urinate, stop the pee mid-flow. This time, try to hold it for eight seconds without leaking. That's hard to do, but it's a good way to test whether your pelvic floor exercises are being done correctly.
Only do this test once or twice a week—not every time you use the bathroom. Doing it too often may negatively train your bladder to not empty completely.
If you're worried about messing with your bladder, another good test is to put your fingers on the perineal body. As you contract the pelvic floor, you should feel it rise. Do this lying down on your side so you're not putting abdominal pressure on the pelvic floor—this will allow you to relax and focus on the muscle.
Benefits of Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support organs including the uterus, bladder, sigmoid colon, rectum, and vagina. These muscles can become weakened through childbirth, pregnancy, chronic constipation, menopause, and more.
By exercising these muscles, it supports the pelvis and its surrounding organs, which helps to Improve urine storage, stool elimination, and sexual function. It may also decrease pain from sex and could help with childbirth.
Our pelvic floor is important for our overall health, so don't sit on it all day. Have fun with these exercises and make them a part of your daily routine to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Looking to relax yours? Try reverse kegels instead.
Dr. Anna Cabeca is a menopause and sexual health expert currently working in Georgia. She received her doctor of osteopathic medicine in gynecology and obstetrics from the Emory University School of Medicine. Cabeca is the creator of many products for hormone and dietary support and is the author of The Hormone Fix, a comprehensive diet and lifestyle plan for women approaching or in menopause. She has been featured on NBC, CBS, and ABC and in the Huffington Post and Reader's Digest.