Pelvic muscle exercises, also known as kegels, are an essential part of improving incontinence and preventing it from worsening. They also can be used to help you suppress the urge to urinate.
The exercises strengthen and tone the muscles that support the pelvic organs. These muscles contract and relax under your command to control the opening and closing of the bladder. When these muscles are weak, urine leakage or loss may result.
To achieve the best results when performing these exercises, imagine yourself as an athlete in training. You need to build strength and endurance of your muscles. This requires commitment and regular exercise. Correct technique is also very important.
How to Locate the Pelvic Floor Muscles
- Squeeze the area of the rectum to tighten the anus as if trying not to pass gas. Feel the sensation of the muscles pulling inward and upward.
- Insert a finger in your vagina and contract the vaginal muscles. The squeeze you feel will confirm that you are exercising the correct muscles.
Remember not to tense your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles. Using other muscles will defeat the purpose of the exercise and slow your progress.
How to Do Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
When you have located the correct muscle, set aside a short time each day for three exercise sessions. At breakfast, lunch, dinner or before bed are convenient and easy to remember times for many women. Make it a habit to exercise at regularly scheduled times each day.
Squeeze your muscle for a slow count of three. Then relax the muscle completely to a slow count of three. Do not "push out" during the relaxation of the muscle. Repeat the exercise 15 times. Fifteen exercises is one set.
Be sure to do three complete sets each day. As you feel your muscle strength growing, increase the count to five for each squeeze and each relaxation.
Remember that this is a muscle conditioning exercise and like any other exercise, it is important to do it correctly in order to gain the most benefit. Focus on isolating the pelvic muscle and continue to breathe normally throughout each repetition. Muscles need oxygen to grow and strengthen.
In the beginning, check yourself frequently by placing your hand on your abdomen and buttocks to ensure that you are not contracting these muscle groups. If you feel movement, continue to experiment until you have isolated just the muscles of the pelvic floor. Don't get discouraged. This is a learning process.
It can take four to seven weeks to notice improvement. If you keep a record of leakage each day, you will begin to notice fewer accidents as you regain control.
If you have difficulty performing these exercises or fail to see any improvement in the expected time, discuss this with your health care provider. Advice, support and learning aids are available.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
Biofeedback for Incontinence
Biofeedback takes information about something happening in the body and presents it in a way that you can see or hear and understand. Learn more here.
Bladder training is an important form of behavior therapy that can be effective in treating urinary incontinence. Learn more here.
Urinary incontinence is the involuntary loss of large or small amounts of urine, and it is thought to affect 13 million Americans. Learn more here.
The pessary is a device (firm ring) that is placed into the vagina to support the uterus or bladder and rectum. Learn more here.
Center for Urogynecology and Women's Pelvic Health
1500 Owens St., Suite 380
San Francisco, CA 94158
Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation Program
2356 Sutter St., Fifth and Seventh Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143