Making the Kegels count – and other pregnancy exercises
Exercise during pregnancy is a changeable feast. It depends on each individual how much, or how little, they want and are able to do. Some pregnant women will be able to continue their preferred form of exercise right up to the birth, whereas others won’t do much regular exercise at all apart from Kegels.
The main point is, that it’s never too late to start. Whether you’re a gym aficionado or a total stranger to it, one mum has identified five simple exercises to get her right on track for a healthy labour.
Me, my pelvic floor and I
I wasn’t exactly a gym bunny before I got pregnant, and I’m certainly not one now! Exercise has always been a hit and miss affair for me to be quite honest, I think the last time I ran anywhere was in the late 90s.
When I got pregnant I kept reading information that said you shouldn’t start a new exercise regime if you weren’t used to it – that was fine by me, I was too sick in the early days to even think about running anywhere.
As the weeks have passed though, the realisation that my body is gearing up for quite a challenge is beginning to make me a bit concerned that I’m just not fit enough.
At 25 weeks I’m well into my second trimester and about three months away from giving birth. The statistics suggest that the average time it takes for a first time mum to deliver her baby is 17 hours.
That’s 17 hours of hard labour (pun intended). Worse than a marathon. And nobody would think about entering a marathon without training, so the way I see it, I have just three months to try and help my body be in the best shape that it can be for giving birth.
I’m not sure that cardiovascular exercise is right for me. Maybe the odd session on an exercise bike or something, but I don’t want to commit to a new routine at the moment because I’d have no idea how hard to push myself. But I really, really want to be fit for labour, so I decided to research and I’ve discovered five, straightforward, beginner-suitable exercises which are designed to shape my body for its own impending marathon:
- Sitting with crossed legs – Just that, on the floor as if you were back at primary school. This position brings the uterus forwards and therefore trains the muscles that encourage it to be in a better position for giving birth. It also helps with general circulation, or if you’re suffering from haemorrhoids as it allows a gentle pressure in your lower body. Plus, you can easily slot it into your daily routine as you sit in front of the television or read a book. But as your bump gets bigger, you may need a hand getting up again
- Sitting in a squat position – This one’s harder work and not quite as attractive as the crossed legs position. BUT, it strengthens your leg muscles, shortens the birth canal and moves your uterus forward and down – all of which you’ll appreciate come D Day.
- Hands and knees – Being in this position, hunching your back up, holding it there and then letting it sink down so there’s a bend towards the floor is a great way to prepare for labour because it really works those core muscles. I repeat the hunch and drop 20 times, once a day.
- Butterfly – This position strengthens your adductor muscles, which again, is useful for labour. For this one, I sit with my back against a wall, feet together and knees apart (like the totally glamorous smear test position) and I outstretch my arms to form resistance against my knees. Then this exercise just involves pushing against your arms with your legs, holding for ten seconds and then repeating for a set of 20.
And as for the fifth exercise, this one is my favourite. It can be done anywhere, at any time. In the car, bus or Tube, in the office, at dinner, over coffee or while walking the dog. These are known as Kegel exercises and they’re designed to help your pelvic floor stay in place during pregnancy and recover quickly after the birth.
I’ve never given much thought to it before, but the pelvic floor is the name given to the hammock-like band of muscles at the very base of the abdomen, so, basically, they’re responsible for holding an awful lot of things in place! Kegel exercises involve clenching your internal, lower abdominal muscles – like you’re trying to stop urine mid-flow. Clench and hold these muscles 20 times, twice a day. You can’t exactly track progress, but if there’s one thing that’s going to be taking a battering during the birth, it’s your pelvic floor, so it’s worth putting the effort in!
All this research and new exercise focus has definitely shown me that I need to be more active in my everyday life. Once my baby is safely here then I’m going to look into ‘buggy-fit’ classes so getting out and about can be fun and beneficial for both of us.