Chances are, everyone and their mother has told you to “just do your kegels” after having a baby to restore your pelvic floor to its former glory.
Even at your 6-week postpartum appointment, you mention to your provider that you’re leaking pee when you sneeze and it feels like your insides are falling out and they say - “keep doing your kegels!”
But are kegels really the holy grail of pelvic floor exercises? Let’s dive in….
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 to a toddler, and pregnant with my second baby!
(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).
Kegels are the isolated contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. Many people are told by their provider to do these during pregnancy, and after giving birth to strengthen the pelvic floor and reduce symptoms such as incontinence.
However, the pelvic floor DOES NOT work in isolation. It is part of a bigger system.
We call this system the “core canister” and it is made up of the diaphragm, transverse abdominis (which is the deepest layer of the abdominal wall) and the pelvic floor. This system works to manage pressure in your core and works in tandem with your breath. But if we work the pelvic floor muscles in isolation, we are disrupting this system, which means the pelvic floor may no longer know how to work WITHIN the system.
This can lead to the pelvic floor muscles taking on extra tension and becoming tight.
This isn’t good, because a tight muscle is a weak muscle. And if the pelvic floor is used to being tense, it can’t correctly contract and release in order to hold in pee! Hence, peeing your pants postpartum.
So no - kegels will NOT help you stop peeing your pants after having a baby. In fact, it might make your symptoms worse.
Instead what we want to do is reconnect to the breath postpartum, specifically 360 breathing.
Take your hands and place them around your ribcage, right around where your bra strap sits. On the inhale breath, feel your ribcage expand, and on the exhale breath feel the ribcage close. You also want to bring some awareness down to the pelvic floor. On the inhale breath, you should feel your pelvic floor muscles relax, and on the exhale, they will ever so slightly, passively contract. This is how you teach your pelvic floor to work as part of the core canister again!
Incorporating 360 breathing into your daily routine is vital postpartum. And from there, you want to be incorporating exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor in a much more effective way. In my Vibrantly You 12-Week Postpartum Program, this is the main focus. We work on rebuilding the core and pelvic floor from the inside out so you feel strong and confident in your postpartum body, and a fun bi-product is often no more leaking!
So moral of the story, ditch the kegels and work on teaching the pelvic floor to work in tandem with the breath, and pick other functional exercises that will strengthen the pelvic floor in a more effective way. And if your symptoms don’t improve, I highly recommend seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist to get evaluated and treated! You do not need to suffer with pelvic floor dysfunction just because you had a baby!
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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.