Kegel Exercises During and After Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings about a lot of change in your body, especially in the details. Of course, everyone thinks of the stretch marks and the physical discomfort, but what about no longer being able to sneeze or laugh without a little pee coming out? Kegel exercises are a very beneficial and low-impact way to work these muscles before and after the baby arrives. But what are Kegels?
What Are Kegel Exercises and Their Benefits?
Kegels are pelvic floor exercises that work the muscles, tissues, and ligaments that stretch between the pubic bone and the end of the spine. These support the uterus, bladder, intestines, and bowels during and after pregnancy, preventing prolapse (when one or more organs slip down from their normal position) and helping with a smoother birth.
The strengthening of this area also helps with bladder and bowel movement, reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, helps with urinary leaking (laugh and sneeze away!), and supports the growing baby's weight on your cervix.
If you do your kegel exercises routinely during your pregnancy, you will develop the ability to control these muscles during birth, making for a statistically easier and less painful birth than people who do not routinely practice Kegels.
Kegel Exercises for Pregnant Women
It’s recommended that pregnant women practice their kegel exercises 2–3 times a day to prepare for delivery. Here are some easy kegel exercises to try while you are pregnant:
- Insert a finger into your vagina and squeeze your muscles around it. Repeat.
- Practice stopping the flow of urine while peeing. Although, don’t do this too much, as it will weaken the muscles if overdone and cause bacterial infections.
- Locate your pelvic floor muscles, and contract these muscles for 5–10 seconds, then relax, repeating 10–20 times.
Kegel Exercises for Postpartum
Many women are in a rush after birth to get their pre-baby bodies back. You can start doing kegel exercises again about a week after birth, though other more intensive exercises are best for six weeks or more post-delivery. Here are some great postpartum kegel exercises from HealthyWoman:
Two Weeks After Birth:
Transverse Abdominal Exercise (Sitting)
Sitting with your back supported, place your hand on your upper and lower abdominals. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth with pursed lips a couple of times, breathing slowly and deeply. Breathe out and tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling your navel toward your spine. Sit tall; do not allow your shoulders to round forward. Hold for 30 seconds or less. Repeat ten times.
Three Weeks After Birth:
Transverse Abdominal Exercise (Side-Lying)
Same technique as above; perform the exercise while lying on one side with legs slightly bent and holding a pillow between the knees. Support head with a pillow or a rolled-up towel.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet resting on the floor, and holding a pillow or a rolled-up towel between the knees. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth several times without changing the natural curve in the back. Breathe slowly and deeply. Then breathe out, tighten abdominal muscles, pulling the navel to the spine. With the navel pulled toward the spine, pull your lower abs in and flatten back by tilting your pelvis. Use your abs; do not push with your legs. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat ten times.
Four Weeks After Birth:
Lie on your back and complete a pelvic tilt (see above). Keep abs tight and back lengthened along the ground; inhale and slide one leg out along the floor until fully extended if possible. Do not loosen abs or let your back leave the ground, even if you can't extend the leg fully. Exhale and slide leg back to start. Repeat 20 times on each leg.
Kegel exercises have so many benefits both before and after birth. They help keep all of your organs in the right place, help keep your pee in the right place, and help to get the baby the hell out of there when the time comes! Afterward, they can help you build back your pre-baby body and help with the healing process as your body recovers from one of the hardest things it has ever been tasked to do. Whatever reasons you decide to start Kegels, make sure you make a routine to see real results!