Kegel Exercises After Surgery for Men and Women

Pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegel exercises, are used to strengthen the muscles that support the pelvis. Named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the physician who first recommended them as a way to strengthen weakened muscles of the pelvis after childbirth, Kegel exercises are used to strengthen the muscles of the bladder, walls of the rectum, and vagina.

Female doctor talking to male patient
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The muscles in the pelvic area can be weakened by surgery, disease, obesity, injury, childbirth, aging, genetics, and other causes.

For surgery patients, the exercises can be done to strengthen muscles that were weakened by a disease process or a surgical incision. For people experiencing urinary or fecal incontinence, these exercises can help increase control over these bodily functions.

Women experiencing incontinence after a C-section typically experience significant improvement with pelvic floor exercises. Some surgeons recommend Kegel exercises for men to improve incontinence after prostate surgery

Stress incontinence, which is urine leakage that happens during stress such as a sneeze, laugh, or cough, may be dramatically improved.

Pelvic floor prolapse, a condition where your uterus, bladder, or bowel sag down into the vagina, may also be improved by pelvic floor exercises.

Some research suggests that these exercises can also improve vaginal tone during intercourse which may increase sensation, and other research recommends Kegels as a treatment for premature ejaculation and poor erection tone.

Contracting the pelvic floor muscles will strengthen the muscles over the course of a few weeks or months. Ideally, you will perform fifteen to twenty exercises at least three to four times per day. Luckily, for most people, the exercises can be done almost anywhere, as it will not be obvious to anyone but you.

Finding Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

For some, the easiest way to locate the pelvic floor muscles is to attempt to stop the urine stream mid-flow. If you can stop and start the flow of urine, you are using the pelvic floor muscles. For others, tightening the anus as though you are trying to prevent a bowel movement is a good way to find the pelvic floor muscles.

Contract the Pelvic Floor Muscles

Once you have discovered how to tighten your pelvic floor muscles, the exercises can be easily accomplished. Until you are accustomed to performing the exercises, start by emptying your bladder completely. If you experience fecal incontinence, you may also want to have a bowel movement, as appropriate.

If you are not sure that you will be able to control your bowels or bladder during the exercises, it is absolutely appropriate to perform them while sitting on the toilet, as though you are intending to urinate. You can also perform the exercises in the shower. Once greater control is achieved, you can then move to do the exercises elsewhere.

Lying flat on your back or sitting in a chair, contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold the contraction for several seconds. Do this five to ten times for a “set” of exercises.

Going Forward

Over time your sets should include fifteen to twenty contractions that are held for ten seconds each. Aim for a minimum of three to four sets per day for the best results. Once you reach this level, you may begin to notice that it is easier to control your urine stream, or even your bowel movements, as your pelvic floor is getting stronger. 

We do not recommend starting and stopping your urine stream as a regular exercise, as it may increase your risk of bladder infection.  

For some, it may take weeks or even months before improvement is noticeable. It is important to continue doing the exercises as part of your daily routine as improvement is often gradual. For the majority of patients, improvement is noted at the three-month mark.

Opportunities for Kegel Exercises

Some people are very creative when looking for opportunities to perform Kegel exercises. Once you are able to perform Kegel exercises without the risk of an episode of incontinence, consider red lights, commercial breaks on television, and waiting in lines to be an opportunity to complete another set of contractions.

For others, setting an alarm or another type of reminder may be necessary in order to complete exercises throughout the day. An added benefit of Kegel exercises is this: some individuals experienced increased pleasure when performing the exercises during sexual intercourse.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kegel AH. The nonsurgical treatment of genital relaxation; use of the perineometer as an aid in restoring anatomic and functional structureAnn West Med Surg. 1948;2(5):213-216.

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Kegel exercises.

  3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Pelvic floor muscle (Kegel) exercises for women to improve sexual health.

  4. Veettil Raveendran A, Agarwal A. Premature ejaculation - current concepts in the management: A narrative reviewIJRM. Published online January 25, 2021. doi:10.18502%2Fijrm.v19i1.8176

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN
Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She has experience in primary care and hospital medicine.