Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(2):329

What are the pelvic floor muscles?

Pelvic floor muscles help prevent urinary incontinence. Incontinence happens when the pelvic floor muscles get weak and cause you to leak urine. Pregnancy, childbirth, and being overweight can weaken pelvic floor muscles in women. In men, surgery for prostate cancer is usually the cause.

Why should I do pelvic floor muscle exercises?

Urinary incontinence is embarrassing, but it can be treated. Pelvic floor muscles are like other muscles—exercise can make them stronger. If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, your doctor might want you to do special exercises called Kegel exercises.

How do I do Kegel exercises?

You can do Kegel exercises anytime and anywhere. Imagine that you are trying to keep from passing gas. Tighten the muscle around your rectum. This is your pelvic floor muscle. You should feel that the area around the rectum is lifting. Try not to tighten the muscles in your legs, buttocks, or abdomen. This can take the focus off of your pelvic floor muscles. Do not hold your breath. After you “squeeze” the muscle, slowly relax it.

You should do two kinds of Kegel exercises: short squeezes and long squeezes. To do the short squeezes, tighten your pelvic floor muscle quickly, squeeze hard for two seconds, then relax the muscle. To do the long squeezes, tighten the muscle for five to 10 seconds before you relax. Do both of these exercises 40 to 50 times each day.

How long does it take before I notice a change?

You should start to leak less urine after about four to six weeks of doing Kegel exercises.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.