Kegel exercises Why do them

The muscles in your pelvic floor help support your uterus, bladder and bowel. Toning them by doing Kegel exercises will help ease your discomfort during the last months of your pregnancy and may help minimize two common problems that can begin during pregnancy and continue afterward: leakage of urine and hemorrhoids. In fact, a recent study found that strengthening your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy appears to reduce your risk of developing urinary incontinence, both during and after pregnancy.

How to do them

Identify your pelvic floor muscles — the muscles around your vagina and anus. To make sure you've found the right muscles, try to stop the flow of urine while you're going to the bathroom. If you stop it, you've found the right muscles. Don't make this a habit, though. Doing Kegel exercises while urinating or when your bladder is full can actually weaken the muscles. It can also lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder, which can increase your risk of developing a urinary tract infection.

If you're having trouble finding the right muscles, try a different technique. Place a finger inside your vagina and feel your vagina tighten when you squeeze. The muscles you squeezed are your pelvic floor muscles.

Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and get into a sitting or standing position. Then firmly tense your pelvic floor muscles. Try it at frequent intervals for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to where you can keep the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Do three sets of 10 Kegel exercises throughout the day, and also do three sets of mini-Kegels. Count quickly to 10 or 20, contracting and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles each time you say a number.

While you're doing Kegel exercises, don't flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. This can actually worsen the muscle tone of your pelvic floor muscles. And don't hold your breath. Just relax and focus on contracting the muscles around your vagina and anus.

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