How’s your levator ani doing?
The levator ani is a muscle that plays a big role during childbirth. Unfortunately, the major muscle experiences damage in about 13-16% of vaginal births. Women who tear this muscle wind up having a compromised pelvic floor, which can lead to chronic pain and incontinence.
The good news is that there are all sorts of exercises you can do to strengthen your levator ani, along with the other muscles involved in childbirth. By strengthening these muscles, injuries become less likely, and childbirth becomes easier.
Read on to learn the best pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy.
Posturing for Pelvic Floor Exercises in Pregnancy
Let’s start by looking at mastering the posture for pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy. No matter what type of standing exercise you’re doing, you have to pay close attention to your posture. Make sure you’re bracing your abdominal muscles, and take notice of how your back feels at all times.
You should focus on standing tall while having your abdominal muscles gently come in towards yourself. Next, your shoulders need to be away from your ears. To get your shoulders in the right position, we suggest gently lifting them, pushing them back, and bringing them down.
We, humans, are prone to curling our spine forward to watch television, drive, eat, or while sitting in front of the computer. Whenever you notice your shoulders are creeping up, get them back in a neutral position.
Lastly, while you’re practicing the exercises in this article, notice what your head’s doing. Your head should also be in a neutral position. Avoid the urge to tilt your chin up or down, and instead keep things level.
Talk to Your Doctor
Play it safe by talking to your doctor before you begin a new exercise regime. Let your doctor know what exercises you’re considering doing, and ask if they have any suggestions or tips.
One of the best pregnancy core exercises you can practice at any time of the day are kegel exercises. Kegeling is a 2 fold exercise since you’ll be strengthening core muscle groups while also strengthening your bladder. As your baby gets bigger, the pressure that’s put on your pelvic floor and bladder can cause incontinence.
However, with regular kegel practice, you can counteract incontinence with stronger muscles. If you’ve never done a kegel before, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the pelvic floor muscles. The next time you’re urinating, try stopping your urine mid-stream.
The muscles you activate to stop the urine stream are your pelvic floor muscles. However, be careful to not stop your urine mid-stream more than once since this can cause health complications. You can always ask your doctor to help you find your pelvic muscles during your next exam.
Moving on, tools like The Hotspot can also help you improve your kegeling routine. Once you know what your pelvic floor muscles feel like, you can start kegeling.
Simply tighten the pelvic floor muscles and hold them tight for about 3-5 seconds. Then relax for a minute and repeat the exercise. We suggest doing anywhere from 5-7 minute kegeling sessions to get the best results.
Now, let’s look at some of the best pregnancy ball exercises. Birthing balls are a wonderful way to safely practice abdominal exercises for pregnancy.
One of our favorite pelvic floor exercises involves sitting up straight on the birthing ball. Next, contract your pelvic muscles, just like you would while kegeling.
Hold the position for about 5 seconds and then release the pelvic floor muscles. Repeat this exercise about 5 times, or more, once it becomes easier. We suggest working your way up to being able to do 3 sets and 20 repetitions. However, when you’re starting, doing the exercise 3 times may be enough.
As you kegel on the birthing ball, make sure you’re not holding your breath. Also, remember to maintain a proper posture. Your spine should be straight, head neutral, and abdominal muscles pulling in (not pushing out).
Advantage of Pregnancy Exercise Classes
If you’ve never used a birthing ball before, we suggest signing up for one of the many pregnancy exercise classes that use them. Having an experienced exercise instructor correct your posture can help you get the most out of your pelvic floor exercises.
If you want to branch out and try something else, you’ll find there are all sorts of pregnancy classes available that can benefit you. For instance, you can look into taking a prenatal yoga class.
Prenatal yoga helps expecting moms improve their flexibility and strength. You’ll also learn techniques to keep stress at bay so you can focus on having a smooth birth.
Lastly, let’s talk about the joys of weightless aquatic exercises. After getting in the pool, warm up your hips by doing a few squats. For squats, simply stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart.
Next, slowly bend your knees to lower your stomach into the water. Keep your spine straight as you lower yourself down. It should look as if you’re getting ready to sit in an invisible chair. After doing 5-10 squats, you can switch to knee-up exercises to workout your core.
For the knee-up exercise, assume the same position you did for squats. However, instead of lowering your torso down, bring your right knee up to your chest.
You’ll have to bring the knee to the side to leave room for your belly. Then switch legs. Repeat the exercise 3-5 times for each side.
Make Labor as Smooth as Possible
To ensure you have smooth labor, you’ll want to start practicing the pelvic floor exercises in pregnancy as soon as possible. Once you know the exercises you’re interested in practicing, reach out to your doctor. Let your doctor know the names of the exercises you’re planning on practicing.
Next, find out if they have any additional exercises they suggest adding on. After getting the green light from your doctor, make an exercise schedule, and stick to it!
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