Pretty much the number one thing I’ve heard as a pregnant lady who likes to work out is you gotta kegel. But are kegel exercises really the be all and end all of pregnancy exercises? Do all women really need to kegel like crazy? Let’s find out!
Kegel exercises are exercises to help strengthen your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor are the muscles and ligaments in your pelvis and hips that act as a sling to support your bladder, uterus and other organs. The pelvic floor is essential for helping deliver your baby but it also plays a roll in holding your uterus, bladder and rectum in place and preventing urine from leaking.
A kegel is an exercise designed to help strengthen the pelvic floor. The goal of a kegel exercise is to engage your pelvic floor by contracting it and holding it for a brief period before releasing. Like a bicep curl strengthens the bicep muscle by contracting the muscle and then releasing it, so too the pelvic floor strengthens by contracting and releasing it.
Kegels are important because as the weight of the baby grows and puts more pressure on your uterus during pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles can become weak. If you have noticed urine leaking involuntarily when you cough or sneeze or jump up and down, you may have weak pelvic floor muscles that need strengthening. Additionally, child birth stretches the muscles to make room for baby, which can further lead to weakening the muscles and causing incontinence.
Studies have shown that doing kegel exercises during pregnancy and post-partum can help decrease the odds of incontinence and other pelvic floor issues. Strong pelvic floor muscles can also assist in preventing hemorrhoids. They have also been shown to help with a shorter active labor phase and to assist in a faster post-partum recovery. Women who have pelvic floor problems can experience incontinence, back and hip pain, uterine displacement, GI problems and a bulging tummy.
A lot of women have tension in the pelvic floor region or have undiagnosed pelvic pain. And some women are not doing kegels correctly. All of these factors could lead to kegels being counter-beneficial. If you have an overly tight pelvic floor, doing more exercises to strengthen that area is not recommended. Plus, having overly tight pelvic floor muscles can actually make pushing during labor more difficult.
Weak pelvic floor muscles are usually characterized by:
If you have dealt with any of these issues then you probably have a pelvic pelvic floor and should be doing kegels!
Tight pelvic floor muscles are usually characterized by:
If you have dealt with any of these issues then you probably have a tight pelvic floor. You should work on lengthening and relaxing the muscles with moves like deep squats. You should also see a pelvic floor physical therapist to assist with lengthening and relaxing.
So as you can see, whether or not you kegel is completely dependent on your own individual needs and there is no general recommendation for the entire population. If you are uncertain, it is better to ask a professional than guess!
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