WTF is a Kegel?

Your poor pelvic floor takes a beating during pregnancy and everyone tells you to do your kegels. So WTF is a kegel?

Many pregnant women go through 40 weeks of people telling them “Get plenty of rest! Drink plenty of water! And do your Kegels!”  in that sing-song voice reserved for drunk buddies and toddlers.

The problem is not all of us know what a Kegel is, how to do them, or what the hell they’re even for. So here’s a little crash course on the virtues of your pelvic floor.

Note: That kind of rhymed.  It’s a like a poem, NO, a rap! It’s a Kegel rap. Wickety Wack! Nevermind. Let’s figure out how to not wet our pants, shall we?

What is it?

Arnold Kegel came up with an exercise for pelvic floor muscles in 1948 and called them “Kegel Exercises” – a legacy I’m sure his future relatives were thrilled with. They are done by flexing and strengthening the muscles in your pelvic floor which acts like a hammock to hold the basement together. You want this area in good shape because these are the muscles that affect your “Snissing” (sneeze pissing), keeping all the important stuff like your uterus in place, plus, they play a part in how good sex feels.


How do you do them?

First identify the muscles: Stop peeing midstream. The muscles that you used there? That’s the one you’re looking for. (Don’t do this all the time as it will actually weaken instead of strengthen your muscles over time.) Once you have that figured out, you’re ready to do a Kegel.

  • STEP ONE: Contract that muscle and try to hold it.
  • STEP TWO: Do this about 12 more times.
  • STEP THREE: Sit back and reap the benefits of your toned pelvic floor by laughing with reckless abandon or coughing in white pants. Easy Peasy, right?!

If you’re still not sure if you’ve isolated the correct area, some sites suggest you get a hand mirror and flex in front of it. Done correctly, your perineum, (you know, your “taint” – it ain’t your vag and it ain’t your anus – it’s the area in between), well, this spot should contract with each rep. If you’re really good, maybe you and your hand mirror can go on the road and make a few bucks. I’d be really impressed if you can pull this move off in your third trimester by-the-way.

Some sites go with the “more is better” attitude and have you doing hundreds of them while you’re at stop lights, brushing your teeth, making spaghetti., etc. but it sounds like it’s better and more effective if they have your full attention – it’s not like you’re doing bicep curls at the bus stop. (If you are, then switch to lunges – they use larger muscles and you’ll look more crazy. Go big or go home.)

It’s also noted that you can actually over do it and tighten these muscles making things like sex painful and you don’t want to go there. Although, seeing as I have trouble remembering they even exist, it’s amazing to think some people have over done it.

They are pretty simple and don’t need anything more than your flexing. If you do them on a regular basis, (amounts are all over the place, but 12 reps once a day seems to be the average) then you should see tighter sneezes in a couple of months.

Obviously these muscles are really important, but sadly don’t get a lot of attention in North America. Many women are just told it’s a part of having kids and that they’ll need surgery if it gets bad. However, in France every woman is prescribed 10-20 free
postpartum treatment sessions in la reeducation périneale to restrengthen their pelvic floors after they’ve had a baby.

This vagina boot camp is done by inserting a “sonde” into the vagina that monitors
your muscle contractions. Oh but that’s not all, they can even connect it up to
a laptop so you can play video games and watch how hard your muscles are
working on the screen. You know, just simple games where you try to jump and
stuff, not like Gears of War or anything.

To me it’s just another
example of how the French have it figured out – like staying skinny while
eating cheese and inventing the guillotine.

Thankfully, we are catching up and getting over the taboo of treating these muscles and pelvic floor physical therapy is becoming more and more available. You can do a search to find one in your area, or ask your doctor, midwife or OBGYN to recommend one.

I stumbled across this great video on The Lady Brain Show where a woman named, Marcy Crouch from Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center talks about pelvic floors and what the ‘sitch is. She doesn’t rap like me, but it’s still really good.


If you know of any other tips or resources on the magic of kegels, please pass them along and I’d add them to the post. After all, we could all do with drier sneezes and the good china staying put, right?

Your poor pelvic floor takes a beating during pregnancy and everyone tells you to do your kegels. So WTF is a kegel?

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  • I’m a PT and teach most of my patients kegels. It is important to make sure you feel a "lifting" as you contract. If you bear down, you’re doing them wrong and defeating the purpose (which is my theory as to why there’s research out there that shows they don’t work). I like to start with my patients lying down and progress to sitting then walking. I recommend doing a set of quick squeezes (which should help the "snissing") and a set of sustained holds for as long as you can (so you can hold it through that marathon feeding session). I have my patients do 5 reps and then work up to 10. Though I’ve not read any research about doing short and long contractions it does make sense from a physiologic stand point. It really can’t hurt. If you’re still having problems, go see a Physical Therapist that specializes in woman’s health. Incontinence is not natural nor a part of aging and it saddens me that women have to suffer needlessly.

  • Thank goodness you exist – I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I basically wake up in a panic nightly thinking "I must do kegels!" but so far have done them, um, never. This is just the kick in the… pelvic floor… that I needed. Thanks!

  • I understood how they work when someone told me it’s like holding your pee for a second every 3 seconds. :p

  • In birth class our instructor told to do Kegels by imagining you were trying to pick up a diamond with your vagina. Kinda weird, but I found it was actually really helpful for finding and using the right muscles down there. Every week we were assigned a few more "diamonds" to do each day.

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