Staying healthy while you're pregnant involves more than simply eating a good diet and getting enough rest each night. Experts recommend that you stay active during your pregnancy, which means you should also maintain and strengthen your body to prepare for your upcoming labor with some simple exercises to tone your pelvic region. These exercises will strengthen the muscles that support your uterus, bladder, and other important reproductive organs that are housed in the area commonly referred to as the "pelvic floor."
To begin exercising your pelvic floor muscles, first, you need to locate them in your body. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health recommends that you identify the muscles in your pelvic floor by urinating and attempting to stop the flow of urine. The muscles that you engage to successfully stop urination are the muscles you'll need to strengthen for your upcoming labor. You can also identify these muscles by inserting a finger into your vagina and squeezing until you feel the pressure.
Performing Kegel exercises simply means tightening the muscles of your pelvic floor and then relaxing them. Try holding for three seconds, then relax for three seconds. Work up to repeating this process 10 to 15 times up to three times a day. If this is challenging for you at first, try doing it lying down. As you increase your strength, you can try doing them sitting, standing, or even squatting.
Kegel Dos and Don'ts
It can be challenging to get the hang of Kegel exercises at first. According to the University of Michigan School of Nursing, there are several common mistakes pregnant women make when first attempting to exercise their pelvic floor:
- DON'T bear down. You should not be replicating the feeling of urinating or passing a bowel movement. Instead, you should focus on drawing the muscles of your pelvic floor upwards and inwards.
- DO remember to breathe. Try exhaling with your mouth open during each contraction, then inhale when you release.
- DON'T use the muscles of your abdomen, legs, or buttocks. Focus solely on the muscles in your vagina and pelvic floor.
Benefits to Pelvic Exercises
Doing regular pelvic floor exercises can help you with common urinary tract issues that occur during pregnancy, like frequent urination and occasional leakage. In addition, toning these muscles will give you the added strength you need to push during strenuous labor. Remember to start small and gradually work your way up, just like any exercise program. If you experience any discomfort, discontinue these exercises and as always, be sure to contact your health care professional before beginning any new regimen.