Pregnancy and child birth do a number on a woman's body. In order to grow a healthy child, the muscles get stretched out of place and weakened. The birth process is the most stressful on your body, because that 'not so little' bundle of joy has to fit through a comparatively tiny hole. Sometimes this results in tearing of the skin and muscles in the perineal area. Every woman who has delivered (or will soon deliver) a child should do Kegel exercises, but if you have given birth to large children, had difficult deliveries, had an episiotimy and/or torn during the delivery process, it is especially important that you do these exercises. And if you are pregnant can really decrease the perineal tearing during the delivery process by doing these exercises.
So what are Kegel exercises anyway? They are exercises discovered by a Dr. Kegel to strengthen the muscles that control urinary flow. You're practicing squeezing and relaxing those muscles. And no one has to know that you're even doing them. There are two ways to determine if you are squeezing the correct muscles.
- In the bathroom, stop your urine midstream. The muscles you squeeze to do that are the ones that you need to exercise.
- Or lay on the floor and focus on squeezing the muscles around your urethra and anus. If you are squeezing your stomach or bottom muscles, you are squeezing the wrong muscles.
- Squeeze for 3 seconds and then relax for 3 seconds. If you can't do that, build up to it.
- Repeat this 10 to 15 times per session. Try to do this at least 3 times a day. These exercises are only effective if you do them regularly.
Ok, this part may be a little TMI, but I think it's helpful. I pushed for four hours (wish I were exagerating, but I'm not) with my first child, who came out the wrong way and would not be turned. Afterwards my CNM said "I am totally amazed that you only have a first degree tear." The reason is I had an hour commute to work each way, and every day I did Kegel's on my way to and from work. That was a good 2 (sometimes 3 with traffic) hours of exercise each day four days a week. Thank you nursing instructors who drilled that into me! It made a huge difference. Having strong pelvic muscles before your delivery can prevent a great deal of pain and suffering, and greatly improve your delivery experience.