Everything You Need to Know About Kegel Exercises

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What Kegel Exercises & Why Do People Do Them?

Kegel exercises have been misconstrued to be something that all pregnant individuals can and should be doing during pregnancy, but what are they, and is this true? For example, imagine you are peeing or need to pee really badly, and you try to stop the urine flow. That movement of your pelvic floor is a Kegel. There are different ways to do Kegels, sometimes holding them as long as possible, other times doing them in rapid succession, but all are in the attempts to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Although many recommend Kegels for all individuals, these exercises are mainly designed to help those with a weak pelvic floor. 

How Do You Know If You Have a Weak Pelvic Floor? 

Often individuals with a weak pelvic floor report urine leaking, or incontinence issues, when jumping, sneezing, or coughing. Other signs your pelvic floor might be less functional than desired include a reduced sensation in the vagina, tampons that dislodge easily (or fall out), a distinct bulge at the vaginal opening, and a general sense of heaviness. 

For individuals with a weak pelvic floor, Kegel exercises can be helpful, but seeing a Pelvic Floor Therapist would be much more desirable. A Pelvic Floor Therapist can thoroughly examine one's pelvic floor and give appropriate exercises based on that examination. Some of these exercises may include Kegels, but they will likely have much more to add than just Kegels. There is also a great app called "Every Mother," with exercises designed to help with dysfunctional pelvic floors. 

Not everyone has a weak pelvic floor, though, there are some with normal functioning pelvic floors, and there are those with overactive pelvic floors. Often individuals with overactive pelvic floors are big into CrossFit, dancing, gymnastics, and weightlifting. You might have an overactive pelvic floor if you have consistent pain with sexual intercourse, pain inserting or removing tampons or period cups, pain with vaginal examinations or Pap smears, incomplete bladder or bowel emptying, pelvic pain, or difficulty relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. 

If you are wondering what relaxing the pelvic floor muscles feels like, let's return to our urination scenario. After you have stopped the urine flow, imagine yourself allowing urine to flow again. You relax your pelvic floor when you enable the flow to continue. This is why birth workers often call the toilet the "Dilation Station" because the muscle memory of relaxing the pelvic floor actually helps encourage further dilation during labor.  

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Overactive Pelvic Floors

If someone has an overactive pelvic floor, doing Kegels is not the way to go, as it will just continue tightening those already tight muscles rather than teaching the body to let go. Instead, working on relaxing pelvic floor muscles should be prioritized. Again, seeing a Pelvic Floor Therapist is an excellent idea as they will have a plethora of information and exercises to help with this. But one great way to practice this relaxation is to squat and urinate in the shower. Doing this exercise gets the body used to relaxing the pelvic floor in places other than the toilet and in positions other than sitting.


If you choose to practice Kegels, it is always a great idea to put just as much focus on relaxation as you do on the Kegels themselves. After each Kegel, focus on relaxing the pelvic floor and imagine it softening and melting before returning to another Kegel exercise. Another great tip is to limit the number of Kegels you do in each session. Fifteen to thirty Kegels are more than enough to begin to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. And lastly, give yourself grace. You will still be able to have a beautiful birth whether you decide to do Kegels or not. Listen to your body and trust that you know what is best for your physical and mental health.

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