Ask Gerda: When Do I Need to Start Doing Kegels—and How?

Ask Gerda: When Do I Need to Start Doing Kegels—and How?

Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. And our wellness routines thank her for this. (Yours will, too. Send us your own questions for Gerda:

Dear goop, I thought the pelvic floor was something I didn’t have to worry about until after menopause, but my doctor said that I should start exercising it now, before I give birth. Is there anything other than Kegels I should know about? —Andrea O.

Hi Andrea, Kudos to your doctor for having a preventative approach. We’re told to do weight-bearing exercises for strong bones and to do aerobic exercise for cardiovascular fitness, but we don’t pay enough attention to the muscles that hold up our internal organs, even though we need them to keep the bladder from leaking and for sexual intimacy.

The pelvic floor muscles form a sling that supports the bladder, rectum, and vagina. These muscles need to contract and relax for urination, bowel movements, and sexual function. They need to be in good shape early in life to deal with childbirth and later in life to make sure that urine doesn’t leak out while you’re laughing or coughing—and all along for good sex.

As with any muscle, you don’t want pelvic floor muscles to be weak, but you don’t want them to be contracted all the time either, which occurs in pelvic floor dysfunction. Kegel exercises teach the pelvic floor muscles to contract strongly, and it’s important to do Kegels correctly to also teach these muscles how to relax. My absolute favorite way to do Kegels is with the Elvie Trainer. Download the app and your phone will gently remind you when it’s time. Slip in the trainer as you would a tampon—it measures the force of your contractions and links to the app, taking you through fun, gamelike exercises. And it makes sure that you relax in between. The Elvie Trainer is a beautiful product that would make a great gift, too.

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