Every woman who has experienced pregnancy, labor and childbirth, knows it brings with it, some peculiar challenges. While our little bundles of joy are beautiful and adorable, the journey to birthing them wrecks havoc on our body. A combination of hormones, pregnancy weight, and the pressure a growing human places on our internal organs, lead to a considerably weakened pelvic floor.
The body begins to feel this change during the pregnancy, and it gets aggravated during labor, and the actual delivery period. The pelvic floor has a number of important roles, and when it loses its strength and toning, you notice the following symptoms.
- Urinary Incontinence
The pelvic muscles are responsible some aspects of bladder control. When they lose their tone, they begin to slack, allowing inadvertent escape of urine. Pregnant women will notice that during and after their pregnancy, they begin to leak urine, while doing something as mundane as laughing.
Prolapse is when an organ pushes through the pelvic floor and protrudes into the vaginal canal. As the fetus grows in the womb, it can push down on the bladder or intestines, leading to these organs somehow dropping into the vagina.
Prolapse can be small, like a bump, or in severe cases, as big as a grape. If you feel a bulge in your vagina, or your partner makes a comment on feeling a fleshy tissue while having sex, there is a chance you have a vaginal prolapse.
- Reduced Sexual Arousal
Pregnancy makes vaginal muscles lose their tone, and slack, leading to a wider, less sensitive vagina. Most women, after childbirth, comment on how their vaginas have become wider than normal, reducing their arousal during sex.
- Pelvic Pain
You may begin to notice a constant, throbbing pain in your pelvic region. You may also experience pain during sexual intercourse. This is because your pelvic floor has experienced some stretching, and tearing due to the pressure of pregnancy.
Pelvic exercises target the pelvic floor muscles (PFM), or the Pelvic Diaphragm. Kegels work the levator ani: puborectalis, pubococcygeus, and iliococcygeus muscles. Strengthening them ensures you have greater bladder control, and increased sexual pleasure.
Pelvic exercises, or Kegels, are the most effective, natural method of, not only regaining your former body, but also improving on your prior conditioning. Pelvic exercise done while working out, relaxing on the couch, taking a shower, during any activities really.
Kegels target your pelvic floor muscles, strengthening and toning them, reversing the slack your pregnancy caused. The great thing about Kegels is that you can do them during and after pregnancy. In fact, doing Kegels during pregnancy can help you have an easier delivery.
- Locating Your Pelvic Muscles
Finding the right sets of muscles to exercise is an easy task. First, try to hold your flow while urinating. The muscles that you feel contracting, are the ones your Kegels will target. Holding your urine midstream should be a one time thing. Doing it often can lead to urinary infections, and ironically, result in weaker bladder control.
Another way to spot your pelvic muscles is inserting a finger into your vagina. Put in a clean finger, and you should feel a reflexive squeeze around the finger. The area that contracts is where your pelvic floor muscles are located.
- Preparing For Kegels
To do Kegels effectively you should know the following things:
- Kegels are a long-term process. You may not see immediate results, but persistence should be your watchword. After about 8-12 weeks, you should begin to see results, especially reduced urine leakage.
- Do not flex or squeeze your buttocks, thighs, or abdominal muscles while doing Kegels. During your pelvic exercises the only muscles you should contract are your pelvic muscles. Do not hold your breathe, relax, and breathe in and out normally.
- Empty your bladder before Kegels. Doing Kegels when you are pressed, will lead to some pain, as well as leaks.
- While standing, seated or squatting (when you can)
- Contract your pelvic muscles for 3-5 seconds.
- Ensure you are not holding your breathe
- Relax your muscles for up to 10 seconds
- Do 10 sets of contractions in a row
- Repeat this process three times daily.
- Make it a routine to do Kegels as soon as you wake up, and right before going to bed.
- When you feel comfortable holding your contractions for 5 seconds, you can make increase them to 10 seconds.
- You can do Kegels during sexual intercourse as well. This increases both you and your partner’s pleasure, as well as working your pelvic floor
Benefits of Kegels During Pregnancy
- Improved Bladder Control
Urinary incontinence is significantly reduced, or eliminated when your pelvic floor is strengthened. The constant urge to pee disappears, and the embarrassing leaks reduce and eventually stop.
- Easier Labor and Delivery
Women with strong and well-toned pelvic floor muscles (PFM) have a relatively easier time, during labor. You are able to control your muscles more easily, during the pushing stage of delivery.
- Faster Healing and Recovery
Kegels prepare your body for the tears and wears of childbirth. Kegels have been shown to quicken the healing of the perineal muscles after delivery.
- Improved Sex Life
Kegel helps you tighten your ‘wide’ vagina, after the pressure of birthing a baby. You and your partner are able to enjoy increased sexual arousal and sensations.