Pregnant? Congratulations! This is a huge milestone in your life, and a lot of exciting things are coming your way!
We have been hearing a lot lately with Pilates or Yoga instructors or even doctors telling our clients who are pregnant to strengthen their core and pelvic floor muscles to prep for the baby! While this is true, most of the time kegels are the movement prescribed to assist with strengthening.
This is absolutely wrong in most cases! Hopefully this can give you some insight into ways to make the birthing process and recovery a tad less stressful for you.
What is the pelvic floor?
Let’s start with what the pelvic floor is. The pelvic floor is essentially a hammock of muscles from the tailbone to the pubic bone that holds up the bladder, uterus, rectum, and other pelvic contents. This group of muscles as well as a network of nerves, ligaments, and connective tissue contribute to core stability and help maintain the function of the bowel, bladder, and sexual systems.
The pelvic floor is designed to stretch under pressure and bounce back in order to provide continued support.
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor begins to stretch in order to make room for the growing baby. These pelvic floor muscles will become weak due to being in a stretched position from the weight of the growing baby.
A lot of women don’t think about the pelvic floor until after having a baby and are experiencing leaking urine. But waiting until the baby is born and you start experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction is not an ideal time to begin working on your pelvic floor.
Due to the prolonged time they are in this stretched position, it becomes more difficult to bounce back. This can lead to episodes of leaking urine or difficulty with bowel movements, which can lead to more stress than is necessary during this stage of your pregnancy.
Once you begin to have bladder and bowel issues, you’ll likely seek treatment from your OB-GYN to figure out how to improve these symptoms. More often than not, they’ll instruct you to perform kegel exercises (this seems to be the go to answer for everything women’s health- if you are given this as your solution, please seek out help from a Women’s Health Physical Therapist).
What is a Kegel?
This is a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, which is often used as a strengthening technique to help people with incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. The easiest way to perform a kegel is to imagine trying to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. Kegels are frequently prescribed to pregnant women as a way to strengthening the pelvic floor as the body prepares to labor and for episodes of leakage.
Kegels are being prescribed to pregnant women at a frequency of 20 repetitions holding the contraction for 10 seconds and performing this 5 times a day. Um, WHAT?!
Imagine being prescribed squats at a frequency like that for weakness in your legs. Would you complete that every day? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
If you have been told to perform kegel exercises to help with your pregnancy, please STOP.
Kegels have been prescribed by practitioners for nearly 75 years after OB-GYN Dr. Arnold Henry Kegel created the exercise as a non-surgical treatment for genital relaxation. Keep in mind, this was nearly 75 years ago.
Think about all of the advances in medical care over the last 75 years. There are A LOT. Pelvic floor care has advanced tremendously over the years, and kegels are no longer the ideal treatment for the pelvic floor, especially during pregnancy.
During the birthing process, the pelvic muscles need to relax and stretch to allow room for the baby to exit through the pelvic outlet.
Kegels will promote increased muscular tension and shortening, which makes it way more difficult for delivery.
So why are practitioners still telling pregnant women to perform kegels?
The answer is simple: there’s a lack of education about the coordination of the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding tissues during delivery. Coordination of the pelvic floor muscles is what makes a vaginal birth possible.
Pelvic floor coordination occurs when the muscles demonstrate the ability to relax instead of only contracting. Seems simple, but it actually takes quite a bit of management during pregnancy because the pelvic floor muscles are stretching and lengthening as the baby grows.
So while it is important to have good pelvic floor muscle strength, it is also important to have good dynamic mobility to coordinate the relaxation component of the pelvic floor, especially during delivery.
So now you’ve been told you need a strong pelvic floor to keep from leaking urine but it also needs to be able to relax to allow for a little human to make its way through the muscles; sounds like a lot, right?
This is where a pelvic floor physical therapist comes in to take the stress away. Speaking with a pelvic floor physical therapy specialist can accurately assess the pelvic floor and develop a treatment plan designed just for you and your body. It is not one size fits all type of plan which is why you are not getting results.
A pelvic floor physical therapist will perform a comprehensive evaluation including postural, spinal, and pelvic neuromuscular assessments in addition to a pelvic floor assessment to determine which structures are involved and methods will be used to treat the issues. It’s amazing how many different structures can be involved in a pelvic floor issue.
The pelvic floor complex needs the assistance of the respiratory diaphragm that sits under the lungs, the lower abdominal muscles known as the transverse abdominal muscles, and the glute muscles to function properly.
Afraid of exercising due to being pregnant?
Have you been told not to perform certain exercises because you’re pregnant?
Just because you are pregnant does not mean you need to stop performing regular exercises.
Let me repeat: JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE PREGNANT DOES NOT MEAN YOU NEED TO STOP PERFORMING REGULAR EXERCISES.
Exercise is backed by research to decrease common occurrences with pregnancy such as low back pain, round ligament pain, gestational diabetes, and much more.
Seeking treatment from a pelvic floor physical therapist will aid in determining appropriate movement modifications to allow the body to keep moving before giving birth. This helps with the coordination of the pelvic floor muscles during delivery and postpartum.
So ladies, please stop performing kegels all day everyday with the hopes it will help with your pregnancy.
It will lead to more dysfunction leading up to the delivery date, which is an unnecessary stress you shouldn’t have to deal with prior to meeting your new baby. Pelvic floor physical therapists like the specialists at mPower Physical Therapy in Dallas, can make a huge difference with leading you to a healthy lifestyle without having to worry about pelvic floor dysfunction.
Did you know that you can talk to our specialist for FREE? Yup, a 30 min consultation to learn how we can help you and why you are not getting the results you want. CLICK HERE to schedule a FREE Discovery Visit with mPower Physical Therapy in Dallas now!
Do not delay as we have 3 spots a week for these types of appointments.