Today on the blog we are exploring the what, how, and whys of Kegel Exercises!
What are they?
Kegel exercises are used to engage and tone the hammock of interconnected muscles that support the uterus. This network of muscles hold tension in the vagina and perineum and is known as the pelvic floor. The ability to flex and relax the pelvic floor on command has many benefits including bladder control, pleasurable sex, and helping labor progress.
Why tone the Pelvic Floor?
Having a mind body connection with your pelvic floor is super beneficial when you are relaxing between contractions, recovering from childbirth, as well as connecting with your body and partner intimately. For many of us, the ability to engage this group of muscles does not develop without practice. The best time to practice is before or during pregnancy. Not to say that if you’ve already had your baby it’s too late! You may just need to be a little more patient with yourself as you regain muscle tone and create that awareness.
Tone: Imagine your vagina is a straw. While keeping the rest of your muscles relaxed, suck imaginary fluid up through your vagina. Practice holding fluid up to 5-10 seconds and then allow the pelvic floor to relax into a bulge. Repeat five times in the morning and evening. Now that’s a kegel!
Now practice relaxing the pelvic floor. This is just as important, if not more so, than flexing the region during pregnancy. Through labor you’ll be encouraged by your doula and support team to allow all the tension in your body to melt away in between contractions. This is especially important for the muscles in your pelvic floor region because baby is inching along through those exact network of muscles.
Relax: Take a warm washcloth and press it against your perineum when relaxing, we suggest cuddling and watching a movie with your partner. Intentionally allow all the tension melt away. The warmth helps bring blood flow to your pelvic floor so you have more awareness of it, and the closeness to your partner helps create oxytocin flow. This is the same oxytocin that will be running through your body during labor. Practice this exercise a few times a week or as it feels good!
The repetition of these kegel exercises build muscle memory, and that is critical for exercises that you’ll want to use during labor.
If you are experiencing painful sex, incontinence, or generally don’t feel like you have the strength in your pelvic floor to perform daily tasks, please reach out to a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. Addressing these issues before reaching menopause can help prevent prolapse and years of discomfort.
You deserve to feel good.
By: Alyssa Seidorf, ProDoula CD Labor, P&ICD