This information will help you learn how to do pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises to improve sexual health and pleasure.
Many women do Kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. This can help manage or prevent physical problems such as the leakage of urine. Kegel exercises can also help improve women’s sexual health and pleasure by:
- Relaxing the vaginal muscles, which allows the vagina to be more open. This is helpful for women who are experiencing pain during sexual intercourse
- Increasing sexual arousal
- Improving a women’s ability to reach orgasm
- Improving blood circulation to the vagina
- Increasing vaginal tone and lubrication
How do I identify my pelvic floor muscles?
- Imagine you are urinating and contract the muscles you would need to stop the stream of urine. Do not actually start and stop urinating, especially if your bladder is full. This can actually weaken the muscles and lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder, which increases your risk for a urinary tract infection.
- Tighten the muscles that are used to hold back or prevent you from passing gas. If you are tightening the muscles of your buttocks or abdomen, you are using the wrong muscles.
- Try inserting a finger or vaginal dilator inside your vagina and tighten or contract your pelvic floor muscles. You will be able to feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward. If you are having trouble identifying these muscles, contact your doctor or nurse.
How do I know if I am using the wrong muscles?
Avoid using your stomach, leg, or buttock muscles. Exercising these muscles will not help you regain pelvic floor muscle tone. To find out if you are also contracting your stomach muscles, place your hand on your stomach. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel your abdomen move, you are using the wrong muscles.
How do I perform Kegel exercises?
Kegel exercises are very easy to do. You can do them anywhere without anyone knowing. Once you have found the correct pelvic floor muscles using one of the suggestions above, exercise these muscles a few times throughout the day. Do several Kegel exercise sessions a day.
For sexual health rehabilitation, the goal is to tire out the pelvic floor muscles so that they relax. This is important when doing dilator therapy or if you are having pain with vaginal intercourse. If the vaginal muscles are tired, they will open or stretch more easily.
Research has found that toning the pelvic floor muscles can benefit sexual health and arousal. If you challenge yourself while practicing Kegel exercises, you can increase pelvic floor muscle strength. You can also draw blood flow to the pelvic floor, which is important for arousal.
For each Kegel exercise session, tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 3 to 6 seconds; then, relax your muscles completely for 3 to 6 seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 to 20 times per session.
If your pelvic floor muscles don’t start to tire, hold them for 6 to 10 seconds; then, relax your muscles completely for 6 to 10 seconds. It is important that you spend the same amount of time contracting and relaxing your muscles.
Where should I do the exercises?
Most people prefer exercising while lying down on the bed or sitting in a chair. However, you should be able to do them in any position and in any place.
Can these exercises harm me?
These exercises can’t harm you in any way. Most people find them relaxing and easy. If you feel pain in your back or stomach after you do the exercises, you are probably trying too hard and using your stomach or back muscles. If you are getting headaches after doing the exercises, you may be tensing your chest muscles and holding your breath.
What if I need more support or information about sexual health and intimacy?
If you need more support and information about these issues, please talk to your doctor or nurse about the MSKCC Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program. For more information or to make an appointment, please call (646) 888-5076.
The Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program provides services at the following locations:
160 East 53rd Street: Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion
300 East 66th Street: Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center and MSKCC Imaging Center
What if I have severe pain or continued incontinence?
There are physical therapists at MSKCC who specialize in women’s health and can address the causes of pain or dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscle area. If you are experiencing these problems, ask your doctor or nurse for a referral to see a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health at the following location:
Sillerman Center for Rehabilitation
515 Madison Avenue, 4th Floor (Entrance on East 53rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10022