Exercising your pelvic floor before and during pregnancy should be a top priority for expectant mothers. However, it's no surprise if you approach your exercises with caution.
Firstly, it's important to know which muscles you should be exercising. If you are unsure on how to locate your pelvic floor muscles, head over to our How To Find Your Pelvic Floor Muscles page.
Besides being good for you and your baby, working out during pregnancy can leave you feeling more energised. Read on to learn more about the different exercises you should be doing throughout the course of your pregnancy.
How Do You Exercise Your Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy?
Kegels (otherwise known as pelvic floor exercises) are the leading prevention and treatment for all pelvic floor disorders. Despite their popularity, a Kegel8 study revealed that 50% of women did not know how to perform an effective pelvic floor exercise. We expect that most of the other 50% could improve their effectiveness as well!
There are two types of pelvic floor exercises that expectant mothers are encouraged to perform:
Slow-Flex Kegels - This exercise helps your slow twitch fibres that are responsible for the control of your bladder in the long-term. Slow-flex Kegels help to improve stamina and the endurance of the muscles that stabilise your bowel, bladder, and uterus. To perform these, tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 1 second, and then relax. In practice, these slow Kegels can help you hold your bladder when you're not near a bathroom.
Fast-Flex Kegels - This exercise aims to help your fast twitch fibres that 'fire' the pelvic floor into action when your bladder or bowel comes under pressure. Essentially, fast-flex exercises can help to prevent any embarrassing urinary or wind accidents. To perform, tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax. In practice, these fast Kegels are great to stop leaks when you laugh, cough, or sneeze.
How Often Should You Exercise Your Pelvic Floor During Pregnancy?
In order to maintain your strength, you should aim to carry out 10 slow Kegels and 10 fast Kegels, 5 times a day. If you follow this, you should see a gradual improvement of your pelvic floor strength within 12 weeks. You will soon learn that as your pelvic floor muscles grow stronger, you will be able to hold your Kegels for longer too! For more information on how to perform Kegels, visit our How to Do Pelvic Floor Exercise page.
If you find that you have a weak pelvic floor, try perfecting the slow exercises first, 6-10 times per day.
Please be aware that for ethical reasons the Kegel8 range of Electronic Pelvic Toners have not been tested on pregnant women, and therefore the impact of using an electronic pelvic toner during your pregnancy is unknown. As a result, we recommend that you do your Kegel exercises manually throughout your pregnancy and use your Kegel8 Electronic Pelvic Toner only before and after you have given birth.
How Do You Know That Your Pelvic Floor Exercises Are Working?
If you're finding it hard to measure the results of your Kegels yourself, there are a variety of tools that help you track your pelvic floor progress. If you are exercising your pelvic floor manually, you can try squeezing against a resistance tool, such as a Kegel8 weighted vaginal cones, to work your muscles harder.
You can also try squeezing against your finger, or your partner, and then you should be able to feel the muscles working.
A biofeedback tool can help you exercise your pelvic floor muscles correctly and measure your improvement. Kegel8's Pelvic Biofeedback Trainer uses biofeedback to help you locate your pelvic floor muscles if you struggle to do so, and helps to exercise them correctly, so they get stronger.
Can Other Exercises Support Your Pelvic Floor?
Traditional exercises, such as running, do not strengthen your pelvic floor. Instead high impact exercises actually cause damage to the pelvic floor and should be avoided throughout your pregnancy.
Traditional low impact exercises which also strengthen the surrounding muscles to work alongside the pelvic floor include:
Yoga - A great way of increasing flexibility is through yoga. Studies from the University Hospital Dusseldorf show that pregnancy has a direct affect on spinal posture, creating that well-known pregnancy side-effect of lower back pain. Yoga can help to tackle this. Not only is it a great way of relaxing, but the increase in flexibility helps you to adapt to labour positions. Pain during labour can also be reduced as your ligaments will be more elasticated.
Swimming - Swimming is a brilliant low impact exercise that is safe to do whilst pregnant, and it burns calories. The water will help to reduce pressure on your pelvic floor, and once you're heavily pregnant you'll soon appreciate the zero gravity.
Squats - When performed correctly, squats work all major muscle groups. This high-calorie burning exercise increases flexibility in your lower body, making for a much easier delivery. Building up your muscle will also prove beneficial when you have to carry around a pregnant belly.
Kegel8 have put together an essential guide to help you pick an exercise each week of your pregnancy.
Original article: Kegel8 Website