Updated: May 23
If I could have a dollar for every time I heard someone say to "practice your kegels" to prepare for childbirth, I'd be a fricken' billionaire 💰💰
You hear this advice EVERYWHERE and while it is well-meaning, it's just plain false.
Let's get into the nitty-gritty of what your pelvic floor actually is.
If we are meeting for the first time - Hi! Welcome to Vibrant Mama Wellness! My name is Megan, and I am a pre and postnatal personal trainer. I am certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, with a specialization in pre+postnatal fitness through Pronatal fitness. I am a mom of one, and became interested in pre + postnatal fitness as I was going through my own pregnancy journey!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition. This blog post is based on my own research and experience - please consult a medical professional before starting or making any changes to your exercise program).
Your pelvic floor is comprised of 14 different muscles that kind of form a sling if you will at bottom of your pelvis. They connect to your pubic symphysis (pubic bone), the coccyx (tailbone), and ischial tuberosities (sitz bones). These muscles are also surrounding the opening of the urethra, vagina, and rectum.
So what's going on down there when you're doing kegels?!
Basically, you're repeatedly contracting or tightening these muscles. Over time, this shortens the range of motion and likely will make the muscles tight and weak.
So how does this play into birth?
If you have pelvic floor muscles that are tight, they will have a very hard time relaxing to allow the vaginal opening to expand and make way for the baby to come out!! This can make labor longer, harder, and more painful. It often also results in tearing. For postpartum, it means pain with intercourse, tailbone pain, leaking pee when you sneeze, constipation, etc etc.
To put it another way, think of the hair tie you keep on your wrist in case of emergencies (this isn't really the best analogy, but it's 10pm after a long day with my 2-year-old so bear with me 🤣) You wear that hair tie on your wrist in case you need it, but often it just sits there, right? It doesn't get much use. And one day, your hair is really bothering you and you ran out of your other hair ties, so emergency hair tie to the rescue. You start pulling on it and twisting it in your hair and BAM - it snaps in half 😭
Now your pelvic floor isn't going snap in half, but I hope you get the picture 🙈
If your pelvic floor muscles never practice relaxing and lengthening and getting in that FULL RANGE OF MOTION (and instead constantly contracting), we're going to have a problem!
So what in the heck do you do?!
You want to have functional use of that pelvic floor. Meaning, it's working in coordination with the breath, and able to contract AND release. By practicing this frequently, the pelvic floor learns what to do when you aren't consciously thinking about it. You do this by relaxing on the inhale breath and contracting on the exhale.
Another thing you can do is to targeted stretches to release those muscles! Some of my favorites are butterfly, rocking adductor stretch, and happy baby.
SO remember mama - your pelvic floor needs to have full range of motion to function properly! Whether you're prepping for birth or postpartum this applies to you. Just like you wouldn't spend hours a day just contracting your bicep, don't do it to your pelvic floor. Ditch the kegels!!
And if you're really struggling when it comes to some of the pelvic issues I listed above, go see a pelvic floor physical therapist. They are absolutely incredible and nothing compares to having that hands on feedback for YOUR specific body!
Alright that's the end of my TED talk on kegels. I hope you learned something new today, and share this with a friend, okay?! We gotta look out for each other and our pelvic floors 😉
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Disclaimer: This blog does not serve as medical advice. Please consult your medical provider before starting a new fitness routine. This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.