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Kegels & Pregnancy

Aug06

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesDear Amalah,

I know I should just ask my midwife about this, but my very caring husband insists on supporting me at every midwife appointment I have (so not complaining about having an involved baby daddy, but still) and I’m too embarrassed to leave this message with her receptionist. So, could you maybe find out for me? Thanks.

I am 25 weeks pregnant and have been doing my Kegels more-or-less faithfully this whole pregnancy. However, the last few weeks or so, they have become increasingly difficult to do. Like…those muscles just don’t want to lift, and I have to be in a really weird position to actually work them. Is that normal or is my jay defective? Are Kegels harder to do while you’re pregnant?

I have looked at various Kegel exercisers online, such as Kegelmaster and Ben Wa balls. Kegelmaster claims to be safe for pregnant women, but still gives the Ask-Your-Doctor-Anyway disclaimer. I can’t find anything about Ben Wa balls during pregnancy.

Can you give me some tips on how to uh, keep everything ship-shape down there?

Thanks!
Confessions on a Pelvic Floor

I’m typing this on a train, so please excuse any BumPY tRack reLAted tYPos, GoOooOD lord, and I need to make this semi-shorter than usual before the other dudes in Business Class notice all my kegel-related Googling on my other browser tabs.

1) Oh, just bring your questions up to your midwife, in front of your husband. Because…honey, it’s high time to start getting over ANY and ALL embarrassment about stuff like this. I mean, oh my God, the stuff he’s going to see, and know about, and have to deal with before, during and after you deliver…you really, REALLY shouldn’t be worried about him knowing that you do pelvic floor exercises. Kegels are good for sex, bladder control, productive contractions during labor…and absolutely NOTHING compared to stuff like mucus plugs! And bloody show! And pooping on the delivery table! And tears, crowning, placentas, oh my! I’m not saying you should be embarrassed about any of THAT stuff either — it’s all natural and it happens and blah dee blah — I’m just saying you really, really need to get over being embarrassed to talk openly with your doctor about any and all concerns in front of him. He’s gonna be there when things get REAL, you know? (And if he’s at all like my husband, he’ll probably be secretly happy to hear that you’re taking care of yourself in…that department, if you know what I mean.)

2) It is perfectly normal for Kegels to get a bit more difficult and awkward at different stages of pregnancy, and it’s usually just due to the baby moving into a new, lower position. I remember being terribly bothered down there right around the same point you’re at, with the constant peeing starting all over again because there were suddenly ACTUAL BABY PARTS bumping into my bladder and pubic bone. In all likelihood? Your baby will shift positions again in a couple weeks and things will get easier in the vagina-clenching department. (And then probably awkward again, in the late third trimester.) If you’re still worried though, ASK YOUR MIDWIFE.

3) I have zero experience with either of the exercise devices you mentioned, pregnant or otherwise, unfortunately. I went about things the old-fashioned way, doing Kegels throughout the day whenever I thought of them. A lot of websites and books recommend doing up to 100 a day — I am sure I fell far short of that mark a lot of times. I did have c-sections so I can’t really comment on any payoff during labor (although for the 45 minutes I did push, I got LOADS of praise for how strong and effective my pushes were) (until my 10-pound posterior-facing child got himself all wedged up in mah pelvic bones). And obviously, I had no post-birth stretching-out worries to contend with. Still, though, c-section mothers are just as prone to post-pregnancy incontinence as anyone, and I am happy to overshare and report that everything is Just Fine in that department too. If you’re still interested in the Kegelmaster though, ASK YOUR MIDWIFE.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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14 Responses to “Kegels & Pregnancy”

  1. Karen Aug 06 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

    I was totally lazy with Kegel’s too and had no problem pushing (20 min) and no tearing (small head). Please don’t throw daggers at me!! When is that incontinence supposed to show up? I thought it wasn’t until later on??? I’ve managed to totally block out most of the discomfort of my pregnancy so I can’t remember about the third term. My kid rode way low for the last 8 weeks and it was just miserable though.

  2. Ms. K Aug 06 at 1:01 pm Reply Reply

    Kegels are good and all…but I think keeping yourself in good shape generally is good for labor, too. During labor and then during recovery, too! Pushing the baby out isn’t necessarily  even a voluntary thing …my whole chest-abdomen-thigh-vajayjay area was contracting in concert to get the baby out. The pushes would start at my solar plexus/lower chest and ripple down my belly and thighs (squeezing all the air out of my lungs and making a totally horrendous noise…)

    I’m sure Kegels help tone those muscles, but so does walking/swimming/weight lifting/yoga/dancing/whatever else you do for exercise while you’re pregnant.

    Good luck!

  3. b Aug 06 at 1:39 pm Reply Reply

    Can’t add a whole lot other than to agree in asking the midwife in front of the husband! I found it helped my husband get a bit more exposed to the “mechanics” involved with having a baby- and he was better prepared when the real action started with the delivery!

  4. tasterspoon Aug 06 at 3:17 pm Reply Reply

    Great question! The Girlfriend’s Guide really scared me, she says repeatedly how nothing is ever the same, if you know what I mean, and how her doctor surgically tightened her up after each delivery, so I’d also like to know whether there’s more I can be doing to avoid that.

    My husband and I are pretty sporty, so I just approach this as another workout and he isn’t the least bit squeamish on the topic of Kegels. (Pooping on the table, though, and seeing my hoo-hah stretch that much – yeesh, I have already told him I want him UP HERE not DOWN THERE when it’s go time, but maybe I won’t care so much in the moment.) We were in a sex shop last month buying a present for a bachelorette party and I was asking the cashier about any PC muscle exercise tools or weights and was disappointed – but got a kick out of how all the men standing in line with their videos were kind of awkwardly trying not to overhear. I suspect there was nothing less sexy than two pregnant women (the cashier was pg too) talking about the natural outcomes of all that sex they had been looking forward to imagining. Anyway, thanks – now I know what to google: Ben Wa balls and the Kegelmaster…and perhaps not to do so at work.

  5. Confessions on a Pelvic Floor Aug 06 at 3:45 pm Reply Reply

    Gah! I know I have to get over having my husband right there for all the personal vaggy stuff, but all I want is five minutes to privately rap with my midwife. Having the personal woman’s touch is sort of why I switched to a midwife anyway…and I’m not getting it yet…which is why I’m now taking my advice-seeking to the Internet. BTW, Amalah didn’t actually answer my question, so I will take my answer now from the peanut gallery. Anyone have experience with Ben Wa balls or the Kegelmaster? Or since @tasterspoon mentioned it, vaginal condition in the 6 weeks and beyond after birth?

  6. lindswing Aug 06 at 5:27 pm Reply Reply

    I, too, just stuck to good old kegels, and I did a LOT of them while pregnant.  However, I only pushed for under 30 minutes which caught everyone off guard after my long, long labor.  Due to lack of prep/stretch/oil time, I tore horribly in lots of directions.  Vaginal condition 6 weeks postpartum?  NOT SO GOOD.  I also gave up on kegels after I delivered, which was a huge mistake.  Incontinence has definitely improved since I’ve recommitted my life to kegeling, but it continues to be a problem.  I still have to kegel to keep from peeing my pants a little when I sneeze, for example.

    Also, while I have to reaffirm that you’re going to be way more comfortable come delivery if you can talk about things like kegels now, you could definitely call and ask to talk to your midwife.  My office will have the midwife call you back when she’s available; you can just tell the receptionist it’s non-emergency, pregnancy-related and I’m sure she’ll understand. 

  7. Hil Aug 06 at 7:20 pm Reply Reply

    Part of what is making this answer hard to find on the internet is that “Kegel exercisers”, “Kegel weights”, and “Ben Wa balls” are not usually terms used in medical literature- “vaginal cones” is the term you need to search if you want more formal medical advice instead of information from companies selling products.

    If you’re so inclined, you can search pubmed.org for research studies.  With a quick search, I could not find one research trial that used vaginal cones during pregnancy- the results I found were all about postpartum use.  This at the very least suggests that a conservative treatment route would save weights for after the delivery. 

    (Related tidbits contained in the pubmed results: use of vaginal cones did not produce better outcomes than plain-old properly done Kegels, and that postpartum Kegels matter a whole lot more than antepartum exercises)

    The only page that I could find that asks an ob/gyn about this is a british site:
    http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/womenshealth/sui/vaginalcones_005170.htm

    Good luck!

  8. Kathleen Aug 07 at 11:11 pm Reply Reply

    I’m so amused that pubmed got involved!

    A) just a thought – MEN can do Kegels too – I still remember my husband laughing at the poor couple we were paired with in birth class when the instructor pointed that out – I’ve been benefitting from those since long before this!
    B) Six weeks postpartum- even with kegels ahead of time, still needed to think ahead and kegel before I laughed hard or sneezed- but I was very glad that I knew exactly where those muscles were. Six months postpartum, pretty much back to pre-pg condition.
    C) I’m glad somebody asked this question, I wondered during pregnancy, too – although I never did try any of the above.

  9. Suzy Q Aug 08 at 1:05 pm Reply Reply

    Ben Wah balls! Ha! Haven’t heard them referenced since the ’80s. They are (or were) an asian sex toy. Not helpful, I know, but thanks anyway for taking me back to my adventurous youth.

  10. Lizzie Aug 09 at 1:19 pm Reply Reply

    My dad had prostate surgery the week before my baby was born, so it was kind of joke between him, my mom, my husband and I about who would be incontinent longer. (It may sound weird to be so open, but we are all in the medical field plus dealing with cancer can do that…) He actually won the bladder control prize, but I’m happy to report that within a couple of weeks postpartum I was pretty much back to normal in the bladder-holding department too! Now as far as the general condition of things “down there”…another story entirely. Contrary to what “The Girlfriends” say, you do not want your doctor to tighten things too much, especially if you tear and there is scar tissue. I am 5 months pp and attempting (I use that word because we still haven’t actually had actual sex) sex is still pretty painful, though improving. I don’t remember The Girlfriends mentioning that as a possibility…

  11. Sharon Aug 10 at 10:57 am Reply Reply

    A friend of mine sells something called Gyneflex, which is amazing for tightening pelvic floor muscles. I looked around on their website a bit and it seems that they recommend starting use of the Gyneflex 4-6 weeks postpartum. I’m gathering from this that in general such things should not be placed Up There until after the current resident has been evicted. In any event, definitely check with the medical professional, and good luck!!

  12. Tasha Mulligan Aug 12 at 8:32 am Reply Reply

    Hey guys,
    I’m a women’s health physical therapist and I have to shout out – There Is So Much More Than Kegels To DO! Check out http://www.hab-it.com to read on pelvic floor rehab during pregnancy and following delivery. Did you know that your pelvic floor muscle can stretch up to 3x their original length during late term pregnancy and delivery? We need to rehab these muscles following delivery to get them firing appropriately again to prevent urinary leakage or prolapse down the road. It involves a 2 step kegel, posture, and an understanding of all of your anatomy. It is high time all of this information be available during pregnancy classes and within the outgoing folders following delivery! The woman’s body and pelvic floor has to be maintained throughout their life span!

  13. Holly Aug 13 at 4:43 pm Reply Reply

    Glad someone asked this. I’m 23 weeks pregnant and wasn’t sure whether kegel exercises during pregnancy were recommended, forbidden, required, …? Had no clue. Now I know, and I’ll start doing them. Thanks!

  14. Ruth Nov 07 at 7:26 am Reply Reply

    There are loads of physical exercises that can be beneficial during pregnancy. 

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