Kegels, or pelvic floor exercises, have always been the go to exercise in pregnancy for pelvic health. However, in recent years I have avoided teaching them in my pregnancy classes, which may sound a neglectful approach. My reasons may be considered by some to verge on a cavalier stance, but let me break it down for you.
Firstly, in the last 15 years I have noticed the trend of many women struggling with getting their babies into the optimal position for delivery (even though they have been doing all their pregnancy exercises and techniques to get baby into position) and ending up with difficult and traumatic deliveries.
Secondly, women are exposed to poor postural situations on a daily basis. Driving, sitting at a desk, commuting, sitting slumped back on our sofas. All of these positions over tighten the muscles of the breathing diaphragm, pelvic floor and hips, disengaging the gluteals (bottom muscles). When these muscles are tight not only is our posture changed, but our babies battle to find the space and freedom to snuggle down into the correct position.
Third, the stress of modern life creates deep seated muscular anxiety meaning we find it hard to relax the core muscles, even though we might not actually think we feel anxious.
All of these things considered, imagine then tiring already tight and stressed muscles by try to repeatedly Kegel or squeeze them on and off over time. All that is going to occur is the creation of a tighter space for your baby making it even tougher for them to move into the optimal position for birth.
So how do I remedy this in my classes?
1. Mobility… I teach the core and pelvic floor to function correctly using movement and breathing patterns.
Tip: Try kneeling on hands and knees while you circle hips with long calm breaths.
2. Get the bottom working properly… the gluteals are the stabilisation muscles the pelvis needs to stay safe, but did you know they are connected to the pelvic floor through lines of fascial tissue. If the bottom muscles are kept functioning and strong with massage and smart strengthening techniques then the pelvic floor has a better chance of working in synergy with the gluteals.
Tip: Applying pressure to the gluteals helps to release the tightness from the pelvic floor so lie on your side and ask your partner to massage your bottom cheeks with a tennis ball. Do both sides.
3. Relax… practice letting go of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. The best way to learn how to do this is to take a breath in, pull your tummy muscles tight like you are hugging your baby, then as you breathe out let you tummy go… then every breath, you let go a little more.
Tip: warm water in the shower or bath can really help.
4. Use a Birth ball… sitting on a Birth ball and using you breath as you create circular movements with your hips SLOWLY will really help to make the pelvic floor tone more favourable for your baby.
Tip: This will help baby to descend deeper into your pelvis as your pregnancy progresses which is good news!
5. Avoid sitting back in your seat, be active, spend time on your hands and knees and keep that belly relaxed, sit on that Birth ball… a lot!
Tip: walking everyday for 20 mins will help you be healthy, help your baby move and make you fit to deliver.
Most of all, chill out and visualize those muscles being soft and snuggley for your baby to move freely around.
There will always be instances where Kegels are still necessary, and if you are unsure, speak to a Women’s Health Physio to find out what is best in your case.
Good luck, mums!
Any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments…
About the blogger:
Marie Behenna is the author of The FitMama Method, published by Souvenir Press 2012 and creator of the ChillMAMA Pregnancy Meditation
Marie teaches exercise and nutrition to pregnant and post partum mothers in North Hampshire, United Kingdom. www.fitmamastudio.com