K is for Kegels

Kegels are exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor which supports the bladder, uterus, and bowels.  They are named after gynecologist Arnold Kegel.  Many women don’t want to do kegels during pregnancy because they believe that the exercises tighten the pelvic floor and make delivery more difficult.  But that is not actually what kegels do.  Kegels, done properly, allow you to understand how to tighten, relax, and generally control those muscles, which is extremely useful during labor and delivery.  Kegels are also said to help increase bladder control after pregnancy and decrease hemorrhoids during and after pregnancy.  Some say that doing kegels during pregnancy can shorten your labor - this is unclear, however it can’t hurt to do them for the other benefits they provide. 

Most explain kegels as clenching like you are trying to stop urine flow or avoid passing gas.  To ensure you have located the right muscles the best way is to do one while peeing – if you stop the flow of urine you’ve done it correctly, but only do this once.  When you do these exercises do not move your legs, buttocks, or abdominal muscles, when done correctly no one should be able to tell you are doing them.  It is suggested that you do three to five sets of kegels each day.  Each set consists of ten kegels held for a count of five then relaxing for a count of five to ten seconds.  The quality of your kegels is more important than the quantity.  It is recommended that you make kegels a part of your regular daily routine for life.  Since no one is supposed to be able to tell you are doing kegels you can do them anywhere, when stopped in the car is a great time.  However, you should not do kegel exercises while urinating because it can increase your chances of a urinary infection and bladder incontinence.  You may begin to see the results of your kegels in four to eight weeks if done correctly daily.

There are devices that supposedly help you locate your pelvic floor muscles to make your Kegels more effective, but these aren’t proven to work any better and increase the chance of bacteria being introduced.  These include devices such as weights, eggs, and electric stimulators.

Other ways to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles include Pilates and yoga, and these have the extra benefit of getting your whole body into better shape as well.  Some specific exercises that involve the pelvic floor are shoulder bridges, vertical thighs, and planks.

Did you do kegels while pregnant? Let me know in the comments. 

I will be taking a break from the "ABCs of Pregnancy" blog series while I get three new series up and running.  I will be starting the "ABCs of Labor and Delivery", the "ABCs of Babies", and the "ABCs of Postpartum" blog series this week and will catch up to the letter K in those series before resuming the "ABCs of Pregnancy" with L is for Listeria.  Stay tuned!