5 Simple Ways To Prep Your Pelvis for Childbirth
One of the most remarkable wonders of the female body is its ability to carry and deliver one (or more!) infants. The fact that a pear-sized organ, the uterus, can expand that much is a physiological feat!
At Women’s Health Foundation, we refer to childbirth as “the Boston Marathon of the pelvis.” If you were really running the Boston Marathon, you would do months of training to get into shape, including exercise, stretching, and good nutrition. However, many women tend to show up to childbirth without having trained their bodies. While your maternal nesting has provoked you to finish the baby’s room, install the car seat, and stockpile diapers; what training have you done for one of the most strenuous events your body will go through, childbirth?
We have 5 easy steps to get your ready for the big day AND a great giveaway for our readers. Comment below and tell us what you are doing to get ready! (1) Winner will be selected randomly on Friday 6/1 to win a great WHF package:
- Total Control® Workout DVD
- You Go Girl...But Only When You Want To! Bladder Health Handbook
- 2 Spectator Tickets for you and friend to the Women's Health Foundation Below the Belt June 7th benefit!!!
If you’re reading this blog and punishing yourself for blowing off prenatal yoga classes for banana splits: don’t worry! There are simple exercises you can do to prepare your body for the big event: Kegels!
Kegels. Everyone has heard of them, no one really knows how to do them. Kegels help the pelvic floor muscles stretch and expand during birth. They reduce the incidence of tearing, improve elasticity/recovery of the muscles after birth, improve quality and sensation of sexy times with your partner, and reduce the risk of incontinence (leaking urine). The best part is that you can do Kegels anytime, anywhere: in the shower, on the way to work, during that weekly staff meeting, while watching TV at night, anytime is a good time. In fact, I am doing them right now as I write this! Kegels work the pelvic floor muscles which act as a hammock to help support the internal organs in the pelvis as well as the infant in utero.
Preparing to Kegel:
- Practice Proper Alignment:First, it’s important to take the pressure off of your pelvic floor muscles, so they can “lift” more easily. If possible, lie on your side with your hips and knees flexed to about 90 degrees (like you are sitting in a straight-backed chair, rather than curled up in a fetal position). Or, if getting on and off the bed/floor is difficult, try kegeling on a stability/balance ball.
- Practice Proper Form:As you perform your Kegels, always remember that you’re working internal muscles and nothing should be moving visibly when performing squeezes and lifts. Think about trying to stop a stream of urine or from passing gas. Because we want to draw up and in, some women think about gently drawing a tampon up and in. Other women find it helpful to imagine their pelvic floor lifting upward like an elevator.
- Let’s Get Physical: Once you are confident that you can isolate your pelvic floor muscles without squeezing your rear end muscles, try to increase the strength of the squeeze. Don’t try squeezing as hard as you can – this often causes too much tension. Feel the muscles relax completely between squeeze. Practice this gentle squeezing 5 to 10 times. Then, relax for a few moments before moving on.
- Squeeze and Lift: Now that you have the hang of squeezing your pelvic floor, focus on feeling a squeeze which builds to a lifting sensation. “Squeeze and Lift” is the Kegel Mantra! Practice squeezing and lifting for a count of 5, then relaxing for a count of 5, repeat 10 times.
- Practice “The Waltz”: Once you have mastered the “squeeze and lift,” you are ready to practice the “Pelvic Floor Waltz”. We call it this because of the rhythm: Squeeze, Relax, Relax…Squeeze, Relax, Relax….like you’re kegeling along to The Blue Danube. This exercise trains the quick-response muscles that are helpful in keeping those little leaks at bay. Repeat the waltz 10 times, depending on how fatigued the muscles feel. With consistent practice, you should feel an increase in your endurance.
If you’re having trouble activating your pelvic floor, ask your Ob-Gyne to “test” your pelvic floor muscles at your next visit. To learn more about pelvic fitness and wellness, visit www.womenshealthfoundation.org.
Molly Kirk Parlier is the Director of Communication and self-proclaimed “Kegel queen” for Women’s Health Foundation (WHF), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago. WHF is dedicated to improving the pelvic health and wellness of women and girls and is the nation’s most visible and passionate champion of women’s pelvic wellness issues.
Photo credit: Victor BezrukovPosted on May 29, 2012 at 9:21 AM