How to Do Kegel Exercises When Pregnant

Written by Lovehoney, 13th December, 2022

Medically reviewed by Dr Armin Ariana

Discover the best way to bulk up your downstairs with Lovehoney's guide to Kegel exercises.

Falling pregnant marks one of the most magical moments in your life. However, it also marks the onslaught of (mostly unsolicited) pregnancy advice from friends and family.

The focus of these unhelpful opinions gradually starts to get lower and lower, until someone brings up Kegel exercise tips and your downstairs is suddenly everyone’s business.

As weird as it is to hear someone talking about your hooha like that, those muscles down there will soon be carrying your baby and helping to push your little one out into the world. So, exercises that keep your downstairs happy and healthy are very beneficial.

Pregnancy kegel exercise - top image

Before we dive into how to perform Kegel exercises when pregnant, we need to introduce the main player: your pelvic floor muscles.

What are pelvic floor muscles?

Pelvic floor muscles (PFM) give off a real ‘quiet achiever’ vibe when it comes to our body parts. The little-known muscles stretch from the front of your pubic bone to the lower tailbone like a hammock and play the critical role of supporting the pelvic viscera team.

Your PFM keep your bladder, uterus and bowel in place all day, every day. When you fall pregnant, the muscles are also bestowed with the responsibility of carrying the weight of your baby.

What happens to the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy?

As expected, your PFM are put under a high level of strain during pregnancy. The added weight of your baby will stretch and weaken the PFM, at the same time as the pregnancy hormone, relaxin softens the muscles in preparation for labour. All this culminates in some knackered pelvic floor muscles, which can struggle to hold the door to your bladder and bowel closed during strenuous activities (ie “peezing”).

However, do not despair. The strength of your PFM is not lost, it simply needs to be built back up through regular Kegel exercises.

Are Kegel exercises good for pregnant women?

Out of everyone, pregnant women probably have the most to gain from well-trained PFM.

While research exploring the positive effects of Kegel exercises is still underway, a 2018 study found that regular PFM exercise increases your chance of a healthy vaginal delivery, as opposed to experiencing unwanted complications that can lead to a caesarean or operation. Apart from an easier delivery, the list of potential benefits continues:

  1. Improved bladder and bowel control
  2. Reduced risk of pelvic organ prolapse
  3. Smoother delivery due to less tension in your pelvic floor during labour
  4. Increased blood flow to your genitals, leading to a quicker healing process after birth
  5. Greater ease and intensity of orgasms, due to the increased strength of contracting PFM muscles above your clitoris

Not to mention, becoming better acquainted with your muscles down there can also have a positive psychological effect. Like a gym junkie admiring the growth of their biceps in the mirror, the more you exercise and increase strength in your PFM, the more you will appreciate their power and take pride in your body. Your PFM are going to be doing some extraordinary things during labour, so they deserve this extra love and attention.

How to do Kegel exercises

Kegel exercise when pregnant - how to

Performing Kegel exercises involves a simple rotation of steps: squeeze, hold, release and rest. However despite their simplicity, it’s always important to consult your doctor before beginning any exercises or trying out a set of Kegel weights or ben wa balls. PFM exercises should only be performed by women who don’t suffer from any pelvic floor dysfunctions, for the sake of you and your baby’s health. So, your doctor’s tick of approval is your first port of call.

Once you’ve been given the all-clear, the first step to Kegel exercises is nailing the correct technique. This is not the time to go overboard and get into overexertion territory.

Isolating your PFM and maintaining your breath is the key to performing Kegel exercises correctly. It’s important to make sure your abs, butt and thighs stay relaxed during your exercises, so you’re not placing extra pressure on your bladder. Holding your breath will also lead to increased tension, so remember to keep inhaling and exhaling!

Now you’re ready to get started.

  1. Get comfortable.

    Exercising your PFM for the first time requires a high level of focus, so make sure you settle down into a position that’s most comfortable for you, whether that’s sitting, standing, lying on your side or kneeling on all fours.

  2. Identify the right muscles to work with.

    Before we isolate the PFM during exercises, we need to know where they are.

    We asked clinical sexologist, Dr Armin Ariana for his recommended technique for identifying the correct muscles and to our happy surprise, there’s some role play involved.

    According to Dr Ariana, the easiest option is to pretend you’re sitting in front of your boss in their office when you suddenly feel a rumble of gas in your stomach and the urge to let it free. In this moment of desperation, your body will automatically squeeze your pelvic floor muscles to avoid the embarrassment of passing gas. Practice these squeezes a few times and congratulations, you’ve correctly found your PFM.

  3. Squeeze, hold, release, relax and repeat.

    It’s time to squeeze those muscles, baby! When you’re just starting out, it’s important to follow a simple exercise and slowly build your strength.

    Dr Ariana suggests starting by contracting and holding your PFM like you’re stopping the flow of pee for 6-10 seconds, then releasing and relaxing the muscles for an equal length of time. Repeat these squeeze-and-release actions 8 times to complete a set, then repeat the set 3 times with 2 minutes rest in between.

    Just to add a few more numbers into the mix, it’s recommended to perform these 3 sets twice per day, 3 days per week. Squeezing your PFM right before coughing and sneezing can also help you get in some extra practice.

When you’re performing these exercises, remember it’s quality over quantity. Following the correct technique is more important than reaching a certain level of repetitions during your workout.

When to start Kegel exercises during pregnancy

It’s never too late to start performing Kegel exercises. However, there’s one catch: the longer you practice, the better the results.

Consulting your doctor about Kegel exercises during the early stages of your pregnancy will help your future (very pregnant) self before, during and after birth. As explained by Dr Ariana, Kegel exercises are “not just for the delivery ease or strengthening of pushes; they are mental gym exercises to feed the genital space with healthy levels of blood, nutrients and oxygen, as well as mindful attention.”

Those who stick to a regular Kegel exercise routine typically begin to see an improvement in their PFM strength, as well as bladder and bowel control within 6-12 weeks. Building up strength in your PFM is not a quick fix job, so starting as early as possible is always your best bet.

Squeeze and release your way to a healthy PFM

Once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll be smashing out Kegel exercises anywhere and anytime. Just remember to practice neutral facial expressions in the mirror, or else your barista will probably start questioning why you’re furrowing your brows every 6 seconds.

A great tip for remembering to get those gains on a weekly basis, is mentally associating your Kegel exercises with a daily activity. Performing a set or two in your car while waiting at a red light will help keep you and your pelvic floor on track.

With a strong and exercised PFM on your side, you’ll be ready to take on labour and post-birth recovery, peezing accidents and all.

Some Kegel weights and balls can be used when pregnant. But at the risk of bacterial infection, we recommend seeking advice from your doctor before trying out a new set of weights or balls.

If you’re cleared to use Kegel trainers by your GP or looking to share the PFM love with a new or soon-to-be mum in your life, check out the Lovehoney range here.