Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No More Kegels During Pregnancy!

Let me tell you why you shouldn't perform Kegels (Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise)  during pregnancy.

If you over exercise your Pelvic Floor Muscle (PFM) by continually squeezing and drawing upwards, the muscle can become too strong and could prevent you from pushing baby out effectively.

When the time comes and your labour has progressed, you've got to 10cm and you think great this is it, the last leg! But you still have to push baby out, what if you can't feel how to push because your PFM are too tight? PFM that are too strong may prevent you from the natural birth you want.

Ideally we want our PFM to be long, supple and taut we definitely don't want it to be too tight! Your PFM is just like any other muscle in the human body, you can over exercise it.
To put things into perspective think about this for a moment - lets say you wanted strong biceps, would you try to perform chin ups or bicep curls all day every day?
You certainly would not, the muscles would be fatigued, sore and you would probably be walking with rounded shoulders and arms like Popeye!
I'm sure we can all relate to sore neck and shoulder muscles but once a massage therapist has worked on the over-tight muscles increasing flexibility they don't feel sore anymore.
It's only when you have spent the next 3 days at your computer with your shoulders up to your ears that the soreness returns.
If you constantly squeeze your PFM as many of the books and videos tell you to for example when you are at traffic lights,  cleaning your teeth, cooking, vacuuming and the list goes on and on. You could literally end up performing  thousands and thousands of them, you need to STOP! It just doesn't make sense.

We don't want PFM that are to tight caused by Over-Exercising them and we don't want PFM to be too Saggy Caused by Poor Posture and lack of Exercise.

You need to know that if you exercise during your pregnancy and lead an active lifestyle then you ARE ALREADY exercising your PFM just not in the way the pregnancy books tell you to. 
 First lets have a look at where your PFM are.

 Your Pelvic Floor Muscle
The muscles attach from your Coccyx (Base of Sacrum) and insert around your Small Pelvic bowel- Cup your hands together loosely and you get an idea of what the muscle looks like and how it attaches to your pelvis. The muscles main job is to hold your internal organs in place.

  How to get your PFM long, supple and ready for birth
Instead of all those extra Squeezes this is what you need to do:

If you have good pregnancy posture, you will have a natural lumber curve so a slightly increased anterior pelvis tilt which is perfectly fine, this is spinal neutral your bodies position of strength.

When the pelvis is in the neutral position it is in an anterior tilt (think of your pelvis tipping forward- but not an increased anterior tilt) the pelvic floor muscle is in the optimal position. You want your PFM to be long and flexible but still taut so it can do its job. Think about a gymnast or a ballerina, these athletes muscles are incredibly flexible yet also strong. This is how you want your PFM to be.

If however the pelvis is in the opposite position-posterior it will have the opposite effect. Instead of a taut muscle it will now be saggy, so you can say goodbye to skipping!

Think about your posture and do it daily it's important, avoid sitting and standing with your tail bone tucked under.

Now for the Exercise You Need to do!
Your Gluteus (butt) muscles attach to your pelvis- if you strengthen the glutes with exercises such as squats and lunges the glute muscle will hold the pelvis in the anterior position. 

Weak glutes not only equate to lower back pain during pregnancy but now you know a lazy butt can relate to a weak PFM.

squats not squeezes, avoid kegels!

Its important that you learn how squat correctly. If you are unsure of how to squat or you experience pain in your knees or back watch my video guide. Squatting During Pregnancy:


Finally We are Born to Give birth:

I think we need to give ourselves some credit. The female body is totally amazing not only can we make a baby but we are also born to give birth.
If we keep ourselves fit and healthy with functional exercise then we may well be able to skip and jump with our children without fear of peeing ourselves post birth.

2 years ago I wrote an article on ‘How much pelvic floor muscle exercise you should do during your pregnancy if you Exercise’ with the emphasis being on NONE: Link No More Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise-AKA Kegels!

I have advised all of my clients over the past 5 years not to do ANY separate kegel exercises/pelvic floor muscle squeezes during their pregnancy if they are active and follow my program. Approx 90% of them have strong pelvic floor muscles regardless of birthing Interventions. They can jump train 3-4 months Post Partum if fit, well and rested.

You also must read my brand new blog (feb 2014) on core muscle dysfunction which explains even further the problems you may have by doing kegel exercises read more here on my website: Core Muscle Dysfunction 

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts. Also add your experiences.
Don't forget to share this article with your friends, thanks.

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  1. I agree exercise is one of the best ways to reduce any kind of body pain for pregnant women because it’s safe and beneficial for them.

  2. Doesn't the anterior tilt whilst standing put pressure on the lower back muscles? Surely the weight of the belly then puts the centre of gravity forward? Doesn't this create major back problems in late pregnancy? If a woman adopts a posterior tilt during pregnancy then the weight is evenly distributed over her hips.

  3. Hi Carrie, no perfect alignment is a slight anterior tilt you need a small lordosis in your lower back-this is spinal neutral. A posterior tilt can make you prone to disc derangement and increased pain.
    You should not try to hold a posterior position during pregnancy due to this and also optimal baby position. It is common for women who sit with a posterior tilt continuously for their babies to position themselves posterior or breech.
    Have a look on the blog on this site: pregnancy posture- will explain further for you, hope helps, Lorraine

  4. Yes, I agree a posterior tilt whilst sitting is highly inadvisable. But I was taught that while standing the opposite was true, you should tuck butt under and tilt pubic bone slightly forward to centre the pelvic bowl.

  5. No Carrie the body is at its strongest in spinal neutral and it is incorrect to stand with a posterior tilt it can also cause a retroverted uterus especially doing this post birth which is why pelvic tucks are also not advised and shouldn't be done to activate TVA-transvers abdominus.
    The only time that this is suggested (pelvic tilt towards the bowel) is if a person is in an increased anterior tilt and a small tuck under brings the pelvis in to neutral not into a posterior tilt :-)

  6. That's a really interesting way of thinking. I'm a scientist, sports massage therapist, personal trainer and pilates instructor in the uk. It has always been drummed into me that exercising the pfm is such an important thing. But now 7 months post partum following an easy pregnancy and birth and I'm suffering with stress incontinence and I was just so frustrated to understand why given my strong pfm and core. Perhaps here are my answers...

    1. Hi Anna, thanks for your comment you will have to visit my main website next week as I have a great article that will interest you on your core and the PFM