Updated: Feb 10, 2022
I’m about to tell you something that might surprise you: stop doing kegels!
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 1, 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).
Okay so I told you stop doing kegels. And you’re like “what?” I thought everyone was supposed to do them?
Well, here’s the deal: the pelvic floor is composed of 14 muscles. It’s kind of like a sling at the bottom of your pelvis to support all of your internal organs. These pelvic floor muscles also work together, in tandem with your diaphragm (the muscle located below the lungs and heart to help you breathe) and your transverse abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscles). In additional to supporting general life functions in your core, this system also manage the pressure in the intra-abdominal cavity.
So what happens when the pelvic floor isn’t working correctly in this system? You may leak pee when you sneeze or cough, you may experience low back pain, you may have pain with intercourse or inserting a tampon, or you might even notice your butt has gone completely flat. These symptoms may be short lived, or they may go on for YEARS! Many people think this is a normal part of "being a mom" but it's not. It means you have dysfunction going on in your core and pelvic floor.
So now that we have some background, let’s discuss WHY kegels aren’t a great idea.
Kegels are taught like a universal exercise that anyone with a vagina should be doing. And especially those who are pregnant or have gave birth. But that is actually false!
When most people think of kegels, they think of contracting the pelvic floor. You often hear the cue “stop the flow of urine.” But remember how we said the pelvic floor is like a sling at the bottom of the pelvis? If we are only stopping the flow of urine, that’s only working the FRONT of the pelvic floor. And that’s only focusing on the CONTRACTION.
So let’s shift gears a little and think about your bicep. If you keep your arm bent and are constantly contracting your bicep over and over and over - what do you think is going to happen?
It’s going to be really tight and chronically contracted. It’s also probably going to be sore, and you might have some pain when you try to use your arm for things, right? You might find that it isn’t as strong as it used to be, and lifting things might feel a lot harder!
This is because an equally important aspect of a bicep curl is the lengthening and relaxing of the arm.
So let’s go back to the pelvic floor. If you’re constantly contracting contracting contracting - what do you think is going to happen? You’re going to have a tight, weak pelvic floor. A really common symptom people experience with this is pain with sex, and/or constipation. This is because the pelvic floor has a really hard time relaxing and lengthening. As you can imagine, this can also cause some difficulty in labor!
That being said, it IS important to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, it just needs to be done in a functional way.
Since the pelvic floor is part of that system with the diaphragm and transverse abdominis, it's important to focus on training the entire system. One technique that I use with all of my clients is 360 breathing. This utilizes the entire system, and teaches all the parts how to work together to properly manage that intra-abdominal pressure, and to relax!
It is really important that you incorporate this type of breathing into your everyday life! During structured workouts, when you’re picking up your kids, bending down to pick up the laundry, etc.
I hope this brought some clarity around why you should stop doing kegels in isolation. Instead, focus on the system as a whole! If you're unclear on if you're experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction or problems, I highly recommend you see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist to get evaluated.
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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.