I'm not in your DDC (due in March so close), but I am a little obsessed by Kegels and I wrote the following for my group. Would love to hear feedback as to if these are effective for you all and which are your favorites.
Pelvic Floor Exercises (Kegels) for Pregnancy
What are Kegels exactly?
It was in Los Angeles in the year 1948 that Dr. Arnold M. Kegel started having his pregnant patients exercise their pelvic floor muscles. He even created the Kegel Perineometer to help prevent incontinence following childbirth. This device allowed patients to know that they were performing the Kegel exercises correctly.
Today Kegel exercises are well known as exercises for women who want to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles. But they are not just limited to pregnant women; they are good for all women of all ages. They can also greatly benefit men, so get your partner practicing along with you. The results may surprise you both.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the lower pelvic girdle also known as the PC (pubococcygeal) muscles. These muscles help to support your internal organs, especially the bladder, urethra, and urethral sphincter. There are a number of sphincter muscles in the pelvic floor. There is a beautiful figure eight that surrounds opening of the vagina and travels around the anus. There are actually two anal sphincters, one external which is voluntary (you can control it consciously), and an internal anal sphincter which is involuntary. The urethral sphincter is a very specific muscle that you can learn to contract and relax around, thus stopping the flow of urine. According to midwife Ina May Gaskin there is yet another sphincter that we want to be aware of during childbirth, the cervix. In Sphincter Law she describes how the cervix often acts like an anal or urethral sphincter, opening when the woman is relaxed and closing if there is fear, danger or anxiety.
As you do the pelvic floor exercises see if you can pay attention to isolating each of these sphincters.
Why do I need to exercise my pelvic floor?
There are many benefits to practicing these exercises and they don’t take much time. Plus no one has to know that you are doing them. You can be practicing in your office right at the desk, while making dinner or answering phone calls. Below are some of the many benefits to women during and after pregnancy.
• Increasing Muscle Tone and Vaginal Thickness- Just like working out your biceps or abs it is important that we work out these muscles as well.
• Embodiment- Elena Tonetti (Birth as We Know It) taught me that being embodied is one of the most important aspects to natural conscious childbirth. If a woman is embodied (in touch with her body, able to notice what is happening in her body) then she may have a much deeper experience during the birth of her child. Doing pelvic floor exercises help you to be in your body and gain a deeper awareness of what is happening with it.
• Enhancing Sexual Pleasure- Kegels have been shown to increase sexual pleasure for both men and women. They may actually take you into having an orgasmic birth, who wouldn’t want a little pleasure during this time! They not only tighten and strengthen the vagina, they can also allow you to have less motion and friction during intimate moments. And for post menopausal women they can help increase lubrication.
• May help vaginal birth be easier- Kegels help to protect women from the physical stresses of childbirth thus helping to prevent tearing and episiotomy. This is because they give you greater control and awareness of your body. You can slowly let your baby out if you know how to gently bring your baby down and out into the world.
• Helps with Incontinence- During and after pregnancy many women experience leaking when they laugh, sneeze or cough. This is often due to weak pelvic floor muscles. Simply doing your Kegels everyday can prevent this from happening both during and after pregnancy and definitely helps later in life when incontinency is a bigger issue.
• Can quicken postpartum healing- Doing your pelvic floor exercise helps to restore the look and feel of the vagina. Some women even report feeling like virgins again after giving birth and practicing their Kegels regularly.
How do I know if I am doing this right?
Many women question whether or not they are doing their pelvic floor exercises correctly. At first it may seem like nothing is happening or that you can’t really feel anything “down there”. Try the following exercises to help you gain a deeper awareness of your pelvic floor.
• The Urine Test- While you are urinating take a moment to squeeze your pelvic floor and stop the flow of urine. You will know that you are doing it correctly because the flow will cease and when you relax the squeeze the flow will begin again. This can also help you gauge how strong your muscles are. If there is leaking or you can’t stop the flow at all you know you will need to work up your PC muscles or that you are doing it incorrectly.
• Take a Gander- Okay, so maybe you have never really looked at your pelvic floor, but now is the time, after all, your baby will be emerging into the world through this vessel. So take out a mirror and begin to explore. Watch your pelvic floor to see if you can see it contract and then push out to see if your vagina opens up for you. If you can see your pelvic floor moving then you know that you are contracting and relaxing something.
• Feel It Out- Place a hand on your pelvic floor and begin contracting and relaxing, see if you can feel the motion. If you want to go even further insert two fingers inside your vagina and contract and relax around them. This is great exercise and helps you to have an awareness of how strong your ability to squeeze is.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
1. The Elevator- Imagine that you have an elevator inside your vagina. As the elevator goes up so do the walls of your vaginal canal. Start with only two floors going up and down. Increase to up to ten floor. And repeat as often as you wish. This will help to strengthen the canal for both pulling up and allowing the baby to come down as you will know how to relax these muscles.
2. Juicing the Plum-Try this with your fist first. Make a fist and imagine that you have a plum inside of it, squeeze as hard as you can squishing the plum-release. Repeat and notice the strength of your fist. Now make a fist slowly, doing a squeezes and tiny release. Still imagine that you have a plum which you are juicing slowly as you squeeze. Keep increasing the squeeze each time, stop when you can’t squeeze tighter. Notice the strength of your fist. You may notice that you can get an even tighter squeeze when you go slower and allow yourself to release a little each time. Now imaging that you have a ripe juicy plum inside of your vagina. Just as you slowly juiced the plum with your fist, releasing a little each time, now juice the plum by slowly squeezing your vaginal muscles until you can no longer tighten them. Release completely and repeat.
3. Gesture of the Horse- This technique is called the Aswini Mudra in ancient yogic traditions. It helps not only to strengthen a specific area of the pelvic floor, but also can help increase your energy levels (and we pregnant women know about feeling low energy). You can often see race horses flicking their tails before taking off for a race, they are pumping their pelvic floors. Start by exhaling completely. Inhale and rapidly contract and relax the external anal sphincter muscle. This may be easier to locate and contract than the vaginal muscles at first. Exhale and relax. Start by rapidly contracting and relaxing about seven times during the inhale and work your way up to about twenty during your inhale. Note: This technique has been modified for use during pregnancy, because if required holding your breath.
4. Waving- Start by contracting the external anal sphincter muscle, then move forward and contract the vaginal opening, even more forward like stopping the flow of urine and then deep with visualizing contracting the cervix. Hold for a count of five. Now slowly release, cervix, muscles that stop the flow of urine, vaginal opening, and anus. This technique may feel a little bit more advanced, visualizing a wavelike contraction and relaxation can help. Waving is great because it helps you bring more awareness to isolating each set of muscles, while strengthening and helping you to relax.
5. Sensational Cervix- This is a deeper, more subtle contraction of cervical area. You may not be able to see or feel this exercise, so what helps most is simply visualizing. Sit in squat position that is most comfortable or on your hands and knees. Imagine that you are contracting right at the cervical opening, contract slowly and then hold for a count of five. Relax the contraction and repeat up to twenty times. This is a great one if you are experiencing issues with an incompetent cervix and to bring greater awareness to the cervical area. If you are close to your due date you may also want to add visualizing the cervix opening as your relax the contraction.
6. Pelvic Breathing- This may just be the most relaxing exercise you ever do! Lay on your left side. Place your hand on your pelvic floor. Usually you can feel this best if your hand reaches behind and rest more on the area between the vagina and anus. Take a deep breath (at least to a count of ten) and allow the breath to expand all the way down into your hand. You should feel your pelvic floor expand as the diaphragm pushed down. As you slowly exhale feel your hand recede back to its original position. Repeat as many times as you wish. This is a great way to relax and warm up for more vigorous exercises. It also helps to give you a greater awareness about what is happening in your body as you breathe deeply and calmly. This technique is great when added to hypnosis techniques and can be done with a partner resting their hand on your pelvic floor and guiding your breath.
7. Squat City- For those of you who want to strengthen your legs as well as your pelvic floor try this vigorous exercise. Start standing, feet wider than shoulder width, contract your PC muscles tightly as you inhale and squeeze your buttocks at the same time. Exhale and squat as you release the PC muscles and buttocks as you reach the bottom of your squat push the PC muscles out. Inhale and come up contracting tightly. Exhale squat and gently push out. Repeat as many times as is desired. This one is great later in your pregnancy as your due date approaches.
8. Reverse Squat City- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width; make sure that your pelvic floor is relaxed completely. Inhale fully then exhale as you squat. When you get to the bottom of your squat contract the PC muscles and hold for five seconds. Inhale and rise up as you relax your pelvic floor. Repeat as desired. This technique strengthens your legs and pelvic floor muscles.
9. The Magic Egg- For this technique your will need a sensual enhancement device. I recommend a jade weightlifting egg or Smart Balls by Fun Factory. Gently insert the toy into your vagina, you will want to use some lube to do this. Contract and relax your vaginal muscles around the toy. Having the toy allows you to really feel the contraction. Both the Smart Balls and the weightlifting egg have a string or loop that you can tug on as you do this thus giving it extra resistance. You can wear this around the house for extra practice standing upright, but don’t make the mistake I did of going out all day thinking it was my little secret. Eventually my muscles couldn’t hold the egg inside anymore and it kept trying to come out during yoga class!
10. Intimate PC Pleasure- When you are making love with your partner take a moment to be still together and contract and relax your PC muscles. See if your partner can feel you squeezing and releasing. Try this several times during your lovemaking experience.
Thanks so much