Pelvic Floor Exercises for Incontinence

Pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegel exercises) are recommended as a form of bladder control. They act to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and therefore reduce the likelihood of urine leaking out. As such, they are most effective when treating stress incontinence. Both women and men can learn to use pelvic floor exercises as a method of treating or preventing incontinence.

How to Perform Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for controlling precisely when you pass urine, as well as controlling the passing of wind.  You can locate these muscles by trying to suddenly stop urinating when on the toilet – women can also place a couple of fingers into the vaginal opening in order to feel the muscles tensing. In order to correctly exercise these muscles, you must contract them upwards and inwards. You should be able to do so without also moving your stomach, thighs or buttocks, and without holding your breath. It is crucial to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly if they are to have the desired effect - your nurse or continence advisor will be able to teach you how to correctly perform these exercises.

Doctors recommend doing both fast and slow contractions (holding the muscles for either 1 or 10 seconds), as this improves the bladder’s ability to hold urine normally as well as when under pressure, as when sneezing or laughing. Some pharmacies stock vaginal cones – small plastic weights which can help you complete pelvic floor exercises.

It is recommended that you do around 8 contractions, 3 times a day for at least 3 months – although doing them daily for the rest of your life will help to prevent a recurrence of incontinence. Many women also find that they can experience extra pleasure when contracting their pelvic floor muscles during sex.

Pelvic Floor Exercises During Pregnancy & After Birth

Pelvic floor exercises can help new mothers who are suffering from incontinence following childbirth by strengthening muscles which may have been stretched or damaged during pregnancy or delivery. All expectant mothers should be taught how to do pelvic floor exercises in antenatal classes, but if this is not the case you can ask your midwife to help you.