happy pregnant woman lying on a yoga mat
Kegel exercises during pregnancy: keep calm and Kegel on

Maybe you’ve never heard of Kegel exercises, but chances are, you’ve already done them. Have you ever had to pee really bad but just couldn’t get to a bathroom right away and so had to squeeze everything down there just to hold it in? If so, you’ve already done Kegels! This exercise entails contracting the muscles of your pelvic floor over multiple reps, and both men and women can partake.

Benefits of Kegels

Just like the exercises you do when you hit the gym, Kegels are used to strengthen your muscles. Specifically, these exercises strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which support your uterus and bladder. Because of this, they can improve your recovery after childbirth in some wonderful ways. Kegels are recommended for pregnant women because they can help prevent urinary incontinence after delivery and are often recommended after pregnancy for the same reason. And since C-sections tend to weaken the pelvic floor muscles, these exercises are especially useful in the event of such a delivery. Kegels are also famous for improving your sexual experience by giving you more intense orgasms. Not too shabby! Not only that, but because they’re a very discreet sort of contraction, you can do Kegel exercises anywhere and no one will even know. With all these benefits, what are you waiting for?

How to do Kegels: 

  • First, find the right muscles: You can initially identify your pelvic floor muscles by trying to stop urinating midstream. If you can stop the stream, you’ve found the right muscles!
  • Practice makes perfect: Once you’ve found your pelvic floor muscles, you should tighten them, hold the contraction for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Try this several times in a row, and slowly build up toward holding the contraction for 10 seconds at a time and then relaxing for 10 seconds. You’ll want to aim for three sets of 10 repetitions each day.
  • A few don’ts: Once you’ve identified the right muscles, don’t do Kegels while urinating, as this can cause your bladder to not empty entirely and increase your risk of urinary tract infection. Also, do be sure you’re contracting the right muscles. Don’t flex muscles in your buttocks, thighs, or abdomen, and do try to target just those pelvic floor muscles. And as you contract and relax, don’t hold your breath, but breathe deeply and freely.
  • Make it a habit: Many women find these exercises easiest to do while lying down, at least initially, because it feels easy to target the right muscles in this position. But once you get the hang of things, you can do them anytime, anywhere. To make these excises a part of your regular routine, it can be helpful to try to remember to do these while engaging in other regular habits throughout your day, like while brushing your teeth or washing your hands. Consistency with Kegels leads to the best results! 

As with any sort of new exercise you want to add to your routine - and certainly if you’d like to know if Kegel exercises could be of a particular benefit to you - be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to learn more. 

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "C-section Risks." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, August 4 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/c-section/basics/risks/prc-20014571.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, September 25 2015. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/kegel-exercises/art-20045283.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum care: What to expect after a vaginal delivery.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, March 24 2015. Retrieved July 18 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233.
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