Don’t Forget this Important Prenatal Exercise
|July 29, 2013||Posted by The Fit Scoop under Prenatal Fitness|
What is your prenatal fitness routine missing?
So you are taking steps to have a healthy pregnancy and have been eating well and diligently doing cardiovascular exercise and strength training. There is still one thing you should be doing that is often overlooked and can have a long lasting impact on your health: pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles that support the uterus, bladder, small intestines, and rectum, and they also help maintain proper alignment of the spine. (see image below)
Pregnancy and vaginal delivery can cause trauma to these muscles such that they begin to sag and are unable to properly support the pelvic organs. This can result in some undesirable problems such as urinary incontinence (accidental urination), bowel dysfunction, and lower back and pelvic pain. Pelvic floor trauma may also delay your return to your pre-pregnancy fitness routine.
What can you do to prevent pelvic floor trauma?
Creating and maintaining strong pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy can lessen the chance of pelvic floor injury during delivery, help with faster postpartum recovery, and reduce the chance of developing problems with your bodily functions. But how do you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles? You have probably heard the term “Kegel exercise” by now, but may not know what it is. Kegels are an exercise specifically designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. The good thing is they can be done discreetly anytime and anywhere, but they require consistency just like any other strengthening exercise.
How do you do Kegels?
- The first step is to identify the pelvic floor muscles. You can do this by stopping and then starting the flow of urine the next time you go to the bathroom (do this only once though to help locate the muscles since stopping and starting the flow of urine often can lead to urinary tract infections).
- Now that you have identified these muscles, start training them by doing 5-10 repetitions where you contract the muscles and hold for 10 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this 2-3 times each day, building up to 25-50 repetitions each time. If 10 seconds feels too difficult, begin with holding the contraction for 3-5 seconds and then work on increasing up to 10 seconds.
- Keep the abdominal, thigh, and glute muscles relaxed while performing Kegels and avoid holding your breath during the exercises.
Try to find a specific time of day (i.e. before going to bed) or a specific activity (i.e. driving to work) that will be your cue to do your Kegel exercises. Remember, prevention of pelvic floor problems is much better than treating them after they develop. Be sure to add Kegel exercises to your prenatal fitness routine.
Kegel Exercises: A How to Guide for Women. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/kegel-exercises/WO00119
Hyatt G, Cram C. Prenatal and Postpartum Exercise Design. Tuscon, AZ: DSWFitness; 2003.
Lundgren, C. Runner’s World Guide to Running & Pregnancy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale; 2003.
Sangsawang B, Sangsawang N. Stress urinary incontinence in pregnant women: a review of prevalence, pathophysiology, and treatment. Int Urogynecol J. 2013 Jun;24(6):901-12.