“How can I tell if I’m doing a kegel correctly?”
First of all, what’s a kegel?
Also, is it KEY-gul or KAY-gul?
Just kidding, it’s definitely KEY-gul. Fight me.
A kegel is a pelvic floor muscle contraction. It’s as easy as that! Now go do 500 kegels everyday to make sure you never have any pelvic floor issues!
Just kidding! That’s terrible advice.
Unfortunately, you may have been given about that much guidance on how to do a kegel and encouraged to do a whole ton of kegels on your own by another healthcare provider or ill-informed friend for whatever ails your pelvic floor. But how do you know if you are doing a kegel correctly…?
So, let’s get to the bottom of this and learn how to kegel correctly…
A kegel is a contraction of your entire pelvic floor – not just shutting off the flow of urine, squeezing your vaginal opening, nor just holding in a fart. It’s all 3. Many times, women will perform one of those and think “oh, I’ve got this!” but, they ain’t got this.
Check it out – your pelvic floor muscle bulk is mostly around your back half. The back door. Your rectum and anus to be technical.
So, getting those front half muscles to contract is sometimes a chore. Or, maybe you’ve always been told a kegel is when you stop peeing mid stream and you had no idea your back half was involved. You’re not alone girl friend!
Here are some verbal cues I use to help women get that pelvic floor to fire:
- squeezing your vaginal lips (vulva) together
- hide your clitoris behind your pubic bone (it’s at the very top)
- stop the flow of urine (please do not practice this over and over again while you’re peeing because it increases your risk of urinary tract infections and urinary retention)
- pick up a blueberry with your vagina
- your vagina is an elevator going up/octopus shooting away/money bag getting synched up
- hold in a fart
- trying to touch your sits bones together, bringing your tail bone towards your pubic bone
These are just a few different cues and not meant to be an exhaustive list!
Research tells us that most women (about 85%) perform the pelvic floor contraction correctly with a verbal cue, but that number decreases towards 70% in women who already have prolapse or incontinence. (Chicken or the egg here – could they not contract their pelvic floor very well before they had prolapse/incontinence OR is the prolapse/incontinence causing a poor contraction… great question! It likely differs from person to person.)
Adding in your own self assessment should get you feeling pretty confident if you’re doing it right or if you need some extra guidance.
Kegel correctly 3 different ways
There are 3 ways to tell at home if you are doing a kegel correctly.
1. Grab a mirror and get to know yourself!
Take a hand mirror and perform what you think is your kegel. You should see a squeezing in and away from the mirror at the vaginal opening and anus. It’s fairly subtle, you’re not going to see a huge movement. If you see your perineum, (also known as your taint, also known as the area between your vaginal opening and anus) bulge then you are not doing a kegel. Instead you are bearing down, which is fairly common, but incorrect and the opposite of what you want.
2. The 3 Finger Method (I just made that name up, go with it).
Use your index, middle, and ring finger for this next task, no de-robing necessary. First, find the very end of your tail bone, it will be down in your butt crack but before your anus. Place your middle finger at the end of this bone (your coccyx). Then, place your index and ring finger just to the outside on your glutes. Perform your kegel. If done correctly, you should feel your middle finger sink in a bit but your index and ring fingers should not move. However, if your index or ring finger moves, you’re squeezing your glutes, not your pelvic floor. Also, if your middle fingers gets pushed out, you’re bearing down.
3. The Clean Finger Method (another made up name, go with it).
Using a clean and lubricated finger you can literally check your own contraction. Place your finger inside of your vagina and perform your kegel. If done correctly, you will feel the circular muscles of your pelvic floor close in around your finger. You shoulder also feel a lifting or pulling in/up on your finger if your finger is inserted deep enough – your deep muscles will lift while your muscles closer to the skin will close in. However, if your finger gets pushed out, you are bearing down. Which, again, is the opposite of a contraction.
Your pelvic floor PT will certainly be able to tell very quickly if you’re doing this correctly but unfortunately, not everyone has access to one. Your midwife or OB/GYN can also tell you if you are doing the contraction correctly.
Of note, kegels do not cure all pelvic floor complaints. But, knowing how to do one correctly is important. In fact, doing a ton of kegels might make your specific complaint worse. Yeah, makes you think twice about that kegel trainer, huh?
Kegel correctly, relax correctly
It is just as important to relax and release your pelvic floor as it is to contract your pelvic floor. In fact, you cannot contract your pelvic floor muscles efficiently and effectively without first relaxing them. So if you had trouble with any of the methods above, try taking a deep breath in first and allowing your abdomen and pelvic floor completely relax – let. it. go.
An example to illustrate why you need your pelvic floor to relax first … If I told you that you you can punch me in the face as hard as you want (not the weirdest visual of this post, oddly enough) BUT you had to start with your arm outstretched at eye level… you wouldn’t be able to do much. To be effective in breaking my nose or giving me a black eye, you’d need to pull your arm back and then launch your fist at my face (gosh this is so weird to write). You need your muscles (pelvic floor, shoulder/arm) to fully relax so you can get more power and strength during the contraction.
Another example … Your pelvic floor is similar to a trampoline – you want some movement so that when you jump the trampoline responds and you shoot up in the air. A trampoline without any give (a tight pelvic floor) gets your nowhere and a trampoline without much elastic (a lazy pelvic floor) gets you nowhere too.
Quick side note … an orgasm involves a rhythmic pelvic floor contraction and relaxation. Tight or weak pelvic floor? Your orgasms probably aren’t as great as they could be. That peaked your interest, huh?
Next time on Fit Moms Blog…
Next week, we’ll discuss releasing your pelvic floor. Because right after I get the question of “how do I know I’m doing it correctly?” is “how do I know if I have a tight pelvic floor?”
Surprise! Your pelvic floor shouldn’t be a mystery. Did this post create another question for you? Send it to me! On instagram @fit.moms.blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.