It’s one of the most important exercises you must do to prepare for baby’s arrival. You don’t have to get into your exercise clothes. Or make time for a shower afterwards to get rid of the glistening sweat beads. You don’t need any special equipment. No gym membership. Rather, it’s simple and easy. And you can do it anywhere, anytime!

This magic exercise? Kegels!

But what exactly are kegels?

Kegels exercises work the muscles of your pelvic floor, or your pubococcygeus (pc) muscle. These muscles are vital to supporting your uterus during pregnancy, as well as helping you give birth. They also help to build your vagina’s muscle tension which is severely weakened after labor and delivery. Without them, both carrying and delivering your baby would be impossible.

While kegel muscles are naturally part of a human’s muscular system and no woman is without them, strengthening them is extremely important to maintain a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Failure to do so deprives you of a more fulfilling pregnancy and makes for a harder labor and delivery–the last thing any woman wants!

Skip the embarrassment: kegels are awesome exercises!

Admittedly, the pelvic floor muscles aren’t ones we first think about when it comes to muscle toning! We can see our biceps, our thighs, our abs (or at least our stomach: the abs are under there somewhere, right?). But we don’t see our pelvic muscles. And therefore they are often forgotten. Some women are kind of embarrassed to talk about them anyway. After all, it involves your vagina and rectum–that can get awkward.

But you’re pregnant. And sometimes awkwardness just has to get thrown out of the window. It helps to realize that kegels aren’t made out to be some form of erotic exercise. Rather, they are vital to helping you with your whole pregnancy process–before, during, and after. You want the best for yourself and your baby!

What all do kegels help?

Kegel exercises were invented and promoted by Doctor Kegel in the 1940s, primarily to help postpartum women regain their control over incontinence. Now, kegels have expanded to help women control incontinence during their pregnancy (due to the pressure of the baby weighing on the bladder), to keep the baby supported in the uterus during the pregnancy, to strengthen the ‘push’ during labor and delivery, and to help women get their vaginas back to normal after delivery and ready for an active, fulfilling sex life. They also help to keep your bowels from dropping out. Which sounds disgusting, but it’s true.

So how exactly do I find kegel muscles to exercise them in the first place?

Since you can’t see your kegel muscles, the best way to describe them is that they are the ones you contract, or tighten, to stop the flow of urine. Many women get confused as to exactly what muscles the kegel muscles are, and end up attempting to incorporate several different muscles into kegel movements. But it doesn’t take a whole torso movement to control urination–which is important to keep in mind as you start kegels.

Kegel exercises are performed by tightening and releasing only the kegel muscles. If you are working more than you kegel muscles, you actually end up detracting from the muscles you want to work. Instead of strengthening them, you actually weaken them. Make sure when you do these exercises, that you do not tighten your butt, abs, or thighs. The movement should strictly be limited to the movement you use to stop the flow of urine.

Some women find it helpful to place her fingers inside her vagina and squeeze the muscles which tighten around her finger. This movement works the pelvic floor muscles as well. Essentially, whichever way helps you determine what muscles to use. If you cannot seem to isolate these muscles, do not hesitate to ask your gynecologist, obstetrician or midwife.

However you decide, note that while stopping urinating is a way to determine what muscles you should use, do not use this as a form of kegel exercise. Frequently stopping and starting urination can actually lead to UTIs.

Found the muscles! Now how do I do kegels?

Performing kegel exercises are simple. Just squeeze the muscles, hold for a few seconds, and release. You can even sit in an office meeting and practice kegels without anyone noticing.

Make it a goal to keep your kegel muscles tightened for up to 10 counts (seconds). This may be very difficult when you first start, so begin with a count that is challenging but doable and gradually work your way up to 10. Once you release, let the release last for 10 counts. And tighten again. Do this 10 times.

Other types of kegel exercises include pulsing kegels as quickly as possible, aiming for a certain number goal you can set for yourself. You can also work on lifting your pelvic floor muscles slowly up and then slowly back down. The feeling is a little awkward at first, but it is an effective variation.

Make a point to do kegels at the bare minimum of 3 times a day. But you can do them as often as you remember them throughout the day. Aiming for 100 (or more!) is fantastic goal. Doing the least amount, you could start to feel results within just a month! Definite results can be felt by two or three months.