Pelvic Floor Muscle (Kegel) Exercises for Women

This information describes how to do pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises.

The goal of Kegel exercises is to improve the muscle tone of your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles support your uterus, bladder, and bowel (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Pelvic organs

Kegel exercises can help you:

  • Manage or prevent the involuntary leakage of urine and stool (incontinence).
  • Support the organs in your pelvis.
  • Relax your vaginal muscles.
  • Reduce pelvic pain.

Identifying Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

Your pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that you would use when urinating to stop the stream of urine. However, do not practice stopping your urine stream because it can cause you not to empty your bladder completely. This increases your risk for a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Your pelvic floor muscles are also the same muscles that you would use to hold back gas. Try tightening your pelvic floor muscles gently without tightening your buttock or inner thigh muscles. If you do this correctly, your body should not lift up at all. If you do notice that your body lifts slightly, you are probably using your buttock muscles.

When performing Kegel exercises, you should feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward. If you are having trouble feeling this, try inserting a finger or vaginal dilator into your vagina and tighten your muscles around your finger or the vaginal dilator.

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Performing Kegel Exercises

Follow these steps:

  1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position so that your body is relaxed.
  2. Breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your abdomen (belly) to rise as it fills with air. Your pelvic floor muscles should remain relaxed as you breathe in.
  3. Breathe out slowly and smoothly through your mouth as you gently tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Hold your pelvic floor muscle in while you exhale. This is called a contraction.
  4. Breathe in again and release your contraction. This will relax your muscles.

Repeat this cycle for 5 minutes. It is very important that you relax fully between each contraction and that you do not hold your breath.

Once you have learned to correctly contract your pelvic floor muscles, exercise these muscles a few times throughout the day.

Kegel exercises should not be painful. If you experience pain while performing this exercise or afterward, you may not be performing the exercise correctly, or this exercise may not be appropriate for you. Call your healthcare provider to discuss this.

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Pain or Continued Incontinence

If you have severe pain or continued incontinence, physical therapists at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) can help. They specialize in Women’s Health and can address the causes of pain or dysfunction in the pelvic floor area. If you are experiencing these problems, ask your healthcare provider for a referral to the following location:

Sillerman Center for Rehabilitation
515 Madison Avenue, 4th Floor (Entrance on 53rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues)
New York, NY 10022

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If you need more support and information about sexual health and intimacy, please talk to your healthcare provider about the MSK’s Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program. For more information or to make an appointment, please call 646-888-5076.

The Female Sexual Medicine and Women’s Health Program provides services at:

160 East 53rd Street – Rockefeller Outpatient Pavilion
300 East 66th Street – Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center and MSK Imaging Center
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