If you are pregnant, you have probably already heard or read a lot the importance of your pelvic floor, but how exactly can you improve those muscles? Be sure to check out the video at the end of this post!
What are the “Pelvic Floor Muscles?”
Your pelvic floor muscles run from your pubic bone in front under your pelvis to your sacrum or tailbone. They act as a hammock, supporting your organs (and baby if you are pregnant), controlling urinary and bowel movements, and supporting the lower back. The main muscle, if you are a woman, is similar to a figure eight shape, wrapping around your vaginal and anal openings. These are the muscles you engage when performing kegel exercises, and the ones that need more strength if you are struggling with incontinence issues.
Importance During Pregnancy
It is of utmost importance that a woman exercises her pelvic floor, both through contraction AND relaxation during pregnancy. A strong and flexible pelvic floor helps to hold your organs and baby in the correct position. Having strong pelvic floor muscles reduces your risk of injury or nerve damage throughout pregnancy because well-exercised muscles can handle the heavy weight of the baby. During childbirth, the vagina and pelvic floor muscles are expected to stretch to previously unknown amounts. While hormones and your body play a crucial role in this dilation, flexible and conditioned pelvic floor muscles can definitely achieve this easier. Finally, after birth, your body is expected to return to normal. If you have effectively been exercising your pelvic floor, the recovery process is faster and you will have less incontinence issues than a woman who hasn’t worked these muscles.
Incorporating During Your Workouts
The first thing to take into consideration when performing kegels is to make sure you are doing them right. You can practice by stopping your stream while using the bathroom, however this really only works the front part of that figure eight muscle. I recommend squeezing your pelvic floor while thinking of your abs as an elevator. As you squeeze, do not bear down, but rather lift up. This should engage both the “front” and the “back” of your muscles. You can also alternate between squeezing the vaginal front and the anal back. Remember to breath through these movements.
A quick way to incorporate these pelvic floor exercises into your daily life is to practice by doing quick squeezes and relaxation 10 times. Then you can squeeze and hold for 10 seconds alternating with relaxing the muscles completely 10 seconds. This can get boring or tedious for me so I incorporate these into my workouts. Watch the video below for demonstrations of how to do kegels during your squats and glute bridge.