This article was medically fact-checked by Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta.
From your doctor to your mom, people are always reminding women to keep up with their Kegels. But a lot of women worry that they’re doing all that squeezing in vain because they read an article by a nay-sayer, or because they don’t get results as soon as they start Kegeling. Don’t give up on your Kegels just yet! They absolutely do work. Read on to understand exactly why doctors (and your mom) recommend Kegels so highly.
What Are Kegels?
First, let’s refresh what’s happening when you do a Kegel. Your pelvic floor is made up of muscles, nerves and connective tissues that sit like a hammock between your pubic bone and the base of your spine. They support your internal organs like the bladder and uterus, and help control your bladder and bowel movements. (You can learn more about the pelvic floor here.)
When you do a Kegel, you contract and release the muscles, which strengthens them over time.
A strong pelvic floor is necessary for all women, but some shouldn’t do Kegels because their pelvic floor is already too tight, so always talk to your doctor before starting any new health regimen.
So, How Do Kegels Actually Work? (No Really, What’s Going On There?)
Just like lifting weights strengthens your biceps, “lifting” your pelvic floor muscles against gravity strengthens them over time. The stronger those muscles are, the better they’re able to support your organs and the more control you have over urination.
This is why Kegels are the number one doctor-recommended treatment for pelvic floor issues such as bladder leaks and vaginal laxity. In a study in 2000, Cammu et. al found that Kegels are 66% effective at correcting pelvic floor problems without the need for additional treatment.
But Kegels do more than fix problems – they can make sure you never have to deal with those issues at all. So don’t wait until you start having problems to do Kegels regularly! As an added bonus, they can improve your orgasms and help you have a more supportive core. There’s no downside to starting them now. The catch? You have to be doing them properly.
How Do I Do Kegels Correctly?
Kegels only work when you’re doing them correctly. And the reality is that at least 50% of women are unable to do a proper Kegel contraction using only verbal or written instructions1. (Check out the most common Kegel mistakes in this article.) So, here are some tips to help you get the perfect Kegel technique.
- Find your pelvic floor muscles: The easiest way to find the right muscles is to try to stop urination midstream. Your pelvic floor muscles are what allow you to open and close your urethra during urination. That tightening sensation is a Kegel contraction. (But don’t make a habit out of doing Kegels this way, as it can cause more harm than good.)
- Lift up and In: When you do a Kegel, lift your pelvic floor muscles (aka your vaginal muscles) up and in, hold for a few seconds, and release. You can check this by inserting a clean finger about 2 cm into your vagina to feel the contraction.
- Remember it’s a two step process: contract and Make sure you fully relax your muscles to get the full benefit of the contraction and avoid wearing those muscles out.
Still unsure if you’re Kegel-ing correctly? You can find more helpful hints in our Kegel beginners article , and check out the video below to hear how Laurie Bailey-Birkholz, family medicine practitioner and Intimina Medical Advisory Board member, helps her patients learn to do Kegels correctly.
If you’re still having troubles or just want to make sure you’re doing them right, remember that you can always ask your doctor for help.
Although Kegels are pretty easy little exercises, they’re more than just squeezing and releasing. To get all the benefits, you have to make sure you’re exercising the appropriate muscles, and doing a routine that’s right for your needs. Just like at the gym, you want to make sure your form is correct so you get everything out of it and don’t hurt yourself.
So how can you make sure you’re doing a Kegel routine that is going to give you results? Using a smart Kegel exerciser can help. Smart Kegel exercisers use biofeedback, a therapy used by many physicians (and the pioneer of the Kegel, Dr. Kegel, himself) to help people gain control of their body’s functions.
These exercisers register your pelvic floor strength each time you exercise, automatically selecting an appropriate routine based on your strength and endurance. Some even guide you through the exercise routine. Each time you exercise, it adjusts the level automatically based on your performance. Just like a personal trainer, it ensures that you are getting a workout that works for you – every time.
It Doesn’t Stop with Kegels
In addition to keeping up with your kegels, for preventative pelvic floor care or to help treat chronic issues, you may consider seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist, who can help you rehabilitate this incredible powerhouse of muscles after childbirth, injury, surgery, and more.
If you experience chronic constipation, the excessive strain of pushing can put a strain on your pelvic floor. Treating constipation through diet, movement, and medication or supplements can help support its long term health.
Depending on your body type, managing weight loss through healthy lifestyle changes can help release added pressure on the pelvic floor. Are you a chronic smoker? Not that you needed an excuse to drop that habit, but if you don’t do it for your skin and lungs, do it for your pelvic floor. A chronic cough can cause unnecessary strain, and damage it over time.
The Unsung Heroine
No matter how old you are or what phase of life you’re in, a healthy pelvic floor is essential for every woman. These muscles are the unsung heroine of our bodies, because of their role in preventing incontinence, ensuring a healthy pregnancy and providing a supportive core.
Researchers and doctors agree: Kegels are the best way to improve the health of your pelvic floor. And if you take care of your pelvic floor, it will take care of you.
Facts checked by:
Dr. Shree Datta
Dr. Shree Datta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in London, specialising in women’s health including all menstrual problems such as fibroids and endometriosis. Dr. Shree is a keen advocate for patient choice, having written numerous articles and books to promote patient and clinician information. Her vision resonates with INTIMINA, with the common goals of demystifying periods and delivering the best possible care to her patients