Many women avoid performing Kegel exercises during pregnancy because they fear it will tighten the pelvic floor, resulting in a more difficult labor. The truth is that a strong, toned pelvic floor endures the rigors of labor far better than a weak, flaccid pelvic floor. We can strengthen muscles without making them ‘tight’ – I can train my biceps for strength without creating excessive tightness in my arms. And a strong muscle has more elasticity and resilience than a weak muscle. How can we best develop a toned, elastic pelvic floor to prepare for a safe, empowered birth? See below for my top tips regarding prenatal Kegel exercises.
During pregnancy, the muscle release is as important as the squeeze when it comes to Kegels. Always be sure that you’re completely opening and relaxing the pelvic floor between each muscle contraction. No matter how far along you are in gestation, I recommend performing 2-3 minutes a day of each kind of Kegel:
a. Elevator Kegels
Slowly draw your entire pelvic floor up and in, holding it as high and tight as you can (feels like you’re trying not to pee your pants) for 10 seconds. Then slowly release and relax completely. Imagine yourself opening like a flower. Then repeat, squeezing your pelvic floor closed and up, up, up inside you. Hold for 10 seconds. Then soften, release, lower and open completely. Perform 10 elevator Kegels daily (about 2-3 minutes) to strengthen the endurance muscle fibers.
b. Sprint Kegels
These are power moves, working the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your pelvic floor. Squeeze as hard as you can, drawing quickly up and in. Then release completely. (Note: never bulge your pelvic floor forcefully downward.) Always draw ‘up & in’ when engaging the muscle and then simply allow it to relax and fall open between squeezes. Aim for 50 sprint Kegels (2-3 minutes) each day.
With this daily practice to enhance muscle awareness and develop strength as well as elasticity, you are preparing your body for a strong, beautiful birth. Start today!