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2 Mistakes A Urogynecologist Says Can Secretly Mess With Your Pelvic Floor Health

Olivia Giacomo
mbg Social Media Associate
By Olivia Giacomo
mbg Social Media Associate
Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.
Image by Vera Lair / Stocksy
March 7, 2022

If you've ever been interested in strengthening your pelvic floor, you've likely heard of or tried Kegel exercises. And these are popular for a very good reason: When practiced correctly, they support the group of pelvic muscles that influence bladder control, sex drive, and more. The key phrase? Practiced correctly.

As urogynecologist and pelvic floor expert Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., says on the mindbodygreen podcast: "A majority of people don't do Kegels properly." In fact, the most common mistake people make can actually have the opposite effect, as it puts even more stress on the pelvic floor. 

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Below, Greenleaf shares two key mistakes to avoid when it comes to Kegels and what to do instead.

Mistake No. 1: Bearing down

According to Greenleaf, it's important not to strain your muscles while doing Kegels: "A lot of people end up bearing down, like they're trying to have a bowel movement, and they think that's what that motion is to tighten the floor, when that's the opposite. You don't want to be bearing down or straining because that could put more stress on the pelvic floor."

Mistake No. 2: Doing Kegels while urinating

Another common mistake, says Greenleaf, is performing Kegels over the toilet. "Specifically with women, there's this misconception that Kegels are done while you're urinating. A lot of women will be like, Oh, I'm doing my Kegels. I pee, and then I try to hold it in. That is not the way to do it," she explains. That's a surefire way to identify the correct muscles to use, she adds, "but what happens is the bladder itself is a muscle, and if the bladder is pushing and you're tightening up your pelvic muscles, the urine is going to go where the least amount of pressure is—and if that's not out of your body, [it] can be back up to the kidneys."

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How to do them correctly.

So, how do you ensure you're doing Kegels in a way that actually strengthens (not strains) the pelvic floor? Greenleaf suggests tightening the pelvic muscles for a count of 10. Imagine you're trying to hold in gas, urine, or a bowel movement, and isolate those muscles as you tighten, then relax. She also recommends a seated exercise to help strengthen those pelvic muscles: "Just sit in a chair, take a pillow or a ball, put it between your knees, and squeeze it together. That will also work those pelvic floor muscles; it's easy, simple, and something that you can do at home."

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The takeaway.

Consider incorporating Greenleaf's tips in order to do Kegels effectively. Again, holding in urine while on the toilet can be a helpful way to initially identify which muscles to engage, but it's important to attempt the exercises above each time after that. Along with proper Kegel exercises, restoring collagen through supplementation might also aid pelvic support and strength over time.*

Olivia Giacomo
Olivia Giacomo
mbg Social Media Associate

Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.