When many people think of Kegel exercises, they generally tend to think of exercises used solely for the purpose of improving the quality of one’s sex life. Kegel exercises are rarely associated with pregnant women.
However, new medical studies have shown that people should expand their awareness of the benefits of Kegels, because these exercises can help expectant mothers ease the delivery of their newborn babies.
According to the America Pregnancy Association, Kegels are exercises that consist of repetitions of contractions and releases of the muscles of a woman’s pelvic floor. These exercises are known to strengthen the vaginal walls and the muscles that support the uterus, the bladder, and the bowels.
Kegels work the pubococcygeus muscles, also known as the PC muscles. The most common Kegel exercise is the stop and start, where a person contracts and releases her muscles during urination to stop and start the flow, but there are other variations.
In another variation of Kegels, you can simply squeeze the lower muscles really tight holding for 10 seconds and releasing. This set should be performed in 4 sets of 25 repetitions.
Some doctors recommend that pregnant women use Kegels to tone their vaginal muscles to prevent incontinence after childbirth, because many women experience muscle strains during delivery. Still, prior to beginning any exercise regimen, especially during pregnancy, all women are advised to consult with their physicians.
Unlike other well known exercises, Kegels are convenient, since they can be done anywhere at anytime without the cost of a gym membership. Basically, to perform a Kegel exercise, all a women has to do is pretend she is urinating and pretend she is holding her bladder.
This sounds simple enough, but if done properly, Kegels are not easy exercises. A person has to concentrate harder to fully contract one’s pelvic muscles without moving any other part of one’s body, including legs, hips, and even one’s stomach. Further, since women cannot see their pelvic as opposed to a bicep, there is little point of reference if a woman is doing a Kegel incorrectly.
Eventually, a woman’s PC muscles should become strong enough so that she may add modifications to the general kegel exercises. For example, a woman’s PC muscles may become strong where you can perform the exercises lying down, or more complicated Kegels, such as Dr. Sears’ elevator exercise, which consists of each pulsing different “levels” of PC muscles before relaxing for a 5 second count.
Ultimately, medical practitioners suggest that pregnant women perform Kegel exercises to minimize the risk of side effects that can result from pregnancy, such as prolapsed uteruses, hysterectomies, and bladder problems. With toned vaginal muscles, pregnant women can speed the process of recovering their pre-pregnancy physiques aside from making childbirth an easier natural process.
As with anything, pregnant women should consult their physicians prior to incorporating a Kegel exercise routine into their wellness program.
BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, “Kegel Exercises.” Babycenter.com.
Pregnancy Weekly Writers “Kegel Exercises.” Pregnancy Weekly.
American Pregnancy Association “What are the benefits of Kegel Exercises?” American Pregnancy Association.
William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN. “Kegels: Exercises for an Easier Delivery.” AskDrSears.com.
Mikio A. Nihira, MD. “Exercises for Pregnancy.” WebMD.com.