Kegel exercises are workouts that aim mainly at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles by contracting and then relaxing them for short periods of time. Pelvic floor muscles are located in the pelvic region – running from the tailbone to the pubic bone – and are responsible for stopping the urine flow. The primary muscle of the pelvic floor is the pubococcygeus (PC), which runs along and around the openings of the urethra, vagina, and rectum.
Pregnancy is the perfect time to take care of those muscles because pregnancy and childbirth automatically weaken your pelvic floor and can cause much damage to this area which supports your uterus, bladder, bowel, and rectum. Thus any damage in this area will affect surrounding muscles and their movements. As the baby grows during pregnancy, the pressure on your pelvic floor increases, especially in the third trimester.
Practicing Kegel exercises when you’re pregnant will help you avoid many of those problems. You can start Kegels by the second trimester after consulting your gynecologist. Kegels can be easily done at home and it does not require going to the gym.
A pregnant woman can safely do Kegels unless she has undiagnosed pelvic pain or pelvic floor issues like pelvic floor dysfunction or vaginismus. She should consult her gynecologist first.
Benefits of Kegel exercise
Improves bladder control
One in three women suffers from urinary incontinence which is the involuntary leakage of urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, jog, or lift a heavy object, especially after childbirth. This increases with normal labor and after many childbirths. Kegels can help prevent or reduce this. They can also help control the sudden urge to urinate.
Improves bowel control
Fecal incontinence or stool leakage is another problem that happens to many women after childbirth. It develops when the rectal muscles are stretched. Kegel exercises strengthen those muscles helping in the prevention or improvement of this condition.
Working on strengthening pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy will help you control those muscles at the time of labor. Kegels relax the pelvic floor shortening the second phase of labor as you are attempting to push the baby out also minimizing the chances of requiring an episiotomy.
Reduces the risk of pelvic organ prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition that occurs when there is stress put on your pelvic floor muscles, from pregnancy and vaginal birth. An organ in the pelvis drops down and presses against the vagina resulting in the weakness of those muscles.
Women with pelvic organ prolapse suffer from urine and stool leakage. In some cases, it also causes insensitivity in the vagina. Maintaining the fitness of your pelvic floor muscles through kegel workouts can help prevent the occurrence of this condition.
Speeds post-partum recovery
Not only during pregnancy, but kegel exercise is also one of the best workouts to do after delivery and you can start it immediately after a vaginal birth after consulting your gynecologist.
It helps in the healing of perineal tissues, increases the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, helps these muscles return to a healthy state, and increases urinary control.
How to do kegel exercises
Finding your pelvic floor muscles
The first step in doing the workout is to identify the right muscles. To avoid confusion, the easiest way is to hold urination. The muscles you are tightening to do this are the pelvic floor muscles you need to contract during the workout. If you want to be extremely sure, you can put a clean finger in your vagina. If you’re doing it correctly, you will find the vagina contracting around your finger.
Doing the exercise
- Make sure your uterus is totally empty before you start.
- Find the most convenient position whether lying down, sitting, standing, or kneeling on all fours.
- Tighten the muscles for three to five seconds, then relax them for a longer time. You can start with one set of tens per day.
- Later on, contract and relax the muscles for longer periods of time and increase the reps as well.
- Try to reach three sets a day, each of 20 reps.
- Remember that mastering the workout is more important than doing many sets and reps. By time, the muscles will get stronger.
Precautions when doing Kegels
- Don’t do Kegels while peeing as this might prevent your bladder from fully emptying, weaken the muscles by time, and cause urine infection.
- Avoid holding your breath or contracting your thighs, stomach, or butt during the workout.
- Once you felt pain, stop immediately and consult your gynecologist.
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