Kegel exercises during pregnancy may help prevent pelvic floor weakness which can occur after childbirth, which can stretch and weaken pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles are a layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and can cause urinary control issues after delivery. It can also make your uterus sag, a condition called uterine prolapse. You can help prevent these problems by doing daily Kegel exercises during pregnancy and after. This will help to strengthen those muscles in order to prevent leakage.
You can feel these muscles by tightening your rectum as if you are holding back gas. To start, begin by contracting your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, and then relax the muscles for three seconds. Do this 10-15 times, several times a day throughout a variety of your daily activities, such as sitting in a meeting, stopped at a traffic light in your car, or when talking on the phone
To make sure you are doing these exercises right make you:
- Check to make sure you are using the correct muscle. Put your hand on your stomach, buttocks, or thigh. If you feel movement in any of those areas, you are using the wrong muscle
- Do not cross your legs during these exercises
- Do not do the exercises with a full bladder
- Do not strain; these exercises are not strenuous
- Be sure to contract and tighten this muscle if you are going to do any activity which might cause urine leakage, such as coughing, lifting, sneezing, standing, or walking.
Improvement may be seen in three or four weeks and may help improve and maintain your bladder control. Other helpful tips include:
- Do your Kegels as often as possible. The more you do them, the faster you will feel results
- Pick an activity you do often as a reminder to get these exercises in for the day. For example, do a set every time you set down
- Tighten the muscle before you sneeze, get up from a chair, cough, laugh, or lift. This helps to protect that muscle from injury and to prevent urine leakage
Kegel exercises during pregnancy are an important part of your new routine, and one you’ll want to keep after baby is born.
Louise E. Wilkins-Haug, MD, Ph.D. is the Division Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine and Reproductive Genetics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital