K: What Are Kegel Exercises?

04/01/2010 10:18 | Updated 22 May 2015

Pregnant woman lying on grass and smilingKegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, consist of contracting and relaxing the muscles that form part of the pelvic floor (the PC muscles) thereby strengthening them.

Highly recommended during pregnancy, the strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles can result in a more comfortable pregnancy and help new mothers to learn how to push effectively during labour, without damaging the muscle.

As it is the pelvic floor that supports the weight of the growing baby, without exercise the muscles can weaken leading to urinary incontinence, which often occurs towards the end of a pregnancy or after the birth itself.

The tricky thing is identifying the correct muscles and learning how to exercise them effectively. Performed correctly, there should be no external movement so if you're squeezing your buttocks or tilting your pelvis, you haven't quite mastered the technique.

To begin, try to isolate the pelvic floor by contracting it as if trying to stop the flow of urine, then let the contraction relax.

Though you may struggle at first, build the strength of the muscle gradually by holding the contraction for one second, then two seconds and eventually three seconds.

Once the muscle is strong enough to hold for three seconds, try increasing your control by contracting little by little.

Then, just as you learned the contraction method by stopping the flow of urine, learn to relax the muscle by imagining you are releasing the flow and gradually increase your control of the relax in the same manner.

Ideally try to find time for daily Kegel exercises, several sets of 10 to 20 contractions should stand you in good stead come the birth.

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