Performing Kegels During and After Pregnancy

How can these exercises help you?

In order to strengthen muscles, you need to exercise them. This includes your pelvic floor muscles, too.

Even if you don’t have clinically diagnosed pelvic floor dysfunction, Kegel exercises can be helpful if you leak a little bit of urine when you sneeze or cough, especially post-childbirth or during pregnancy!

Kegels are safe to do during pregnancy and are often encouraged.

Pregnancy and the Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor is a set of muscles in the floor of the pelvic area that support the organs in the pelvis like the uterus, bladder, and rectum. These muscles help keep your bladder from leaking.

Amongst other factors like trauma, repeated straining from constipation, and being very overweight, vaginal childbirth can weaken the muscles of the pelvic floor. In order to strengthen the muscles, Kegel exercises may be suggested.

Kegels' Benefits

Symptoms of a weak pelvic floor overlap with some of the side effects of being pregnant, but generally, when you have trouble tightening and relaxing your pelvic floor muscles, this may be called pelvic floor dysfunction or pelvic floor weakness.

Strengthening your pelvic floor with Kegel exercises can help symptoms such as:

  • Leakage of stool or urine
  • Constipation or pain with bowel movements
  • Painful urination
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Pain with intercourse
  • During a bowel movement, feeling like you aren’t “done”
  • Lower back pain

Your doctor will need to do an examination of your pelvic floor and the surrounding muscles in order to establish a clinical diagnosis.

He or she may want to wait until you've recovered from childbirth to see if any of the symptoms have changed. However, these symptoms may be signs of other ailments as well, so be sure to bring them up at your appointment. Your doctor will take a holistic look and, if need be, order subsequent tests to definitively find out the root cause of the symptoms.

Performing Kegels

Kegels are simple, repetitive squeezes or tightening of the muscles. You do not need any special equipment to perform these exercises, just an understanding of which muscles to focus on and how to perform the exercises.

Identifying the Muscles

In order to find the correct muscles, there are some things you can try.

  • The next time you urinate, stop the urine mid-stream with your muscles; these are the muscles you will use during Kegels. In fact, that’s the exact muscle squeeze you do during kegel exercises – but don't do your Kegels while you urinate (doing so increases risk of UTIs).
  • Lie down and insert a clean finger into your vagina. Squeeze your muscles as if you were holding in urine. If you feel the tightening around your finger, you’ve got the right muscles.

If you’re really having difficulty isolating the muscles, ask your doctor or gynecologist to help you, especially if you think you might be doing the exercises incorrectly.

Sometimes weighted vaginal cones that you insert and squeeze can be helpful in showing you which muscles to use; some doctors also use biofeedback with Kegel exercises in order to monitor pelvic floor activity.

Performing the Exercise

You can do the exercises lying down, sitting, or standing. Ideally, you should do all three positions each day for maximum strength.

To perform the exercise, pull up the pelvic muscles and squeeze for a count of three, then relax for a count of three. You want to eventually be able to work up to 10 to 15 repetitions each time you do Kegels. Aim to do the exercises at least 3 times a day.

Common Mistakes

When doing your Kegels, try not to squeeze or tighten other muscles like your stomach or legs. This can interfere with the pelvic muscles and actually put pressure on your bladder if you're tightening the muscles around the pelvic floor instead of the actual pelvic floor muscles.

Don’t do your Kegels while you urinate. This can lead to not completely emptying your bladder, increasing your risk of urinary tract infections.

Tracking Improvement

Like any workout regimen, it takes some time to see any muscle strength improvement when doing Kegels. Many people start to notice a change in their bladder strength within three to six weeks of regularly doing their kegel exercises.

A Word From Verywell

Kegels are easy exercises that can make a big difference, and once you get the hang of them, they’re easy to fit into your everyday life. If you’re experiencing urine or stool leakage, especially during pregnancy or after you’ve given birth, talk with your obstetrician about kegel exercises and how they might be helpful for you.

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