pelvic floor exercise

"Do Your Kegels" or Is it, "Never Kegel"?

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For years there’s been a trend to tell everyone to “do your kegels” and we are currently seeing a shift in the other direction. We’ve recently heard both other pre/postnatal professionals and pregnancy care providers telling women they should never kegel.

We’re here to help clear up that contradictory information and educate you on why we think a general statement one way or the other is dangerous.

If you've taken class with us, you are familiar with the cue, "Pump & Kegel".  We remind you to fire this inner core unit constantly.  But why are we so focused on that? 

The muscles of your pelvic floor support your uterus, bladder and bowel.  They are important for sexual function AND work with the rest of the muscles of the core to stabilize and support the spine.  They also support the extra weight of the uterus and growing baby during pregnancy.  

Many of us don't realize that the pelvic floor, like our diaphragm, is part of our core.  Having an over active or under active pelvic floor negatively effects all the functions associated with breathing, digestion, eliminating toxins and moving through our every day lives.  It also helps neutralize intra-abdominal pressure, making us less susceptible to developing a Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation).   Your pelvic floor should contract and release with every single diaphragmatic breath which is why we cue the contraction AND release in all our classes at FPC.

We are bringing a hyper awareness to what your core should be doing naturally because most of us are dysfunctional movers and breathers. We do this because training your muscles to move functionally means that they will be able to properly support you in your day to day movements outside of class as well.

This is why we disagree with the general, blanket advice to either A: do your kegels or B: never kegel. A fully functioning pelvic floor does both! Everyone should understand the muscles of their pelvic floor. Some women need to strengthen them, some need to learn to relax them. If this isn’t information you can assess on your own (many of us can’t), you should seek out someone who can help you assess whether or not you are doing kegels correctly and if you need to devote time to training them to function properly.

If you are given the advice to either kegel or never kegel, what should you do?

Ask follow up questions! Does your care provider notice something specific that has led them to make that recommendation? If so, ask them what they see and what are they concerned about. Another thing you should do is ask for a referral to see a pelvic floor therapist to address the issue. Your midwife or OB is excellent at what they do, but they don’t have the credentials to assess your pelvic floor and prescribe exercises in the way that specialist that can. It’s important to get the help you need.


Want to learn more? Join us for one of our upcoming Protecting your Core and Pelvic Floor for Birth and Postpartum workshops. We’ll teach you to assess your pelvic floor and give you all the information needed to understand how to exercise through pregnancy and postpartum safely.

5 "Scary" Myths About Prenatal Fitness

In honor of Halloween, we’ve put together our top 5 “scary” myths that continue to persist in the pre/postnatal fitness world.

Have you heard any of these before?

 
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You should keep your heart rate under 140BPM’s.

This was a guideline that was recommended in the past but has since been eliminated by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG). Everyone’s level of fitness and resting heart rate is different before pregnancy which means giving a “one size fits all” number doesn’t make sense. We now use “perceived level of exertion” or the “talk test”. Basically if you feel like you are pushing too hard and gasping for air, it’s a sign to slow down.

It’s dangerous to lift heavy weights.

This is another guideline that was given to keep the heart rate from going above 140bpm’s. Lifting weights spikes your blood pressure for a short period of time, but so does stress, running to catch a cab, chasing toddlers, and living life! :) You want to lift weights in order to maintain and build muscle tone. Don’t forget you have a newborn that you are going to be lifting and holding on the way. It’s wise to build up that strength now and not once you are dealing with sleep deprivation and fatigue.

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You can continue doing whatever workouts you did before pregnancy.

This one is the scariest myth of all! While many of your pre-pregnancy workouts are indeed safe for the baby, they aren’t necessarily safe for your core and pelvic floor. It’s important to train differently and with a lot more intention during pregnancy in order to ensure a complete postpartum recovery. (Apply that Pump & Kegel!!) Many people that continue their pre-pregnancy routine throughout pregnancy end up doing damage to their bodies (Diastsis Recti and pelvic floor problems) that can cause pain or discomfort for the rest of their lives.

Crunches are safe before you start to “show”.

Fine for the baby, yes. Safe for your body? Probably not. We recognize that every body type is different and some women continue crunching long into their 2nd trimester without any problems, but they are lucky. Bottom line, the more you strengthen your Rectus Abdominis (6-pack) and Obliques, the more strain you are going to place on your linea alba as your belly starts to expand. We recommend you step away from your traditional crunches and oblique work and begin focusing on strengthening your Transverse Abdominis (TVA) as soon as you know you are pregnant.

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You can go back to your regular workout classes when you are cleared at 6-weeks.

You had an easy pregnancy and amazing delivery. You exercised up until the day you delivered, you feel great and just got clearance from your care provider (sometimes as early as 2 weeks) that it is safe to go back to your pre-pregnacny workouts. Doing too much too soon can cause serious lasting damage. Your core and pelvic floor has been under a tremendous amount of strain for many months. It’s going to take more than 6 weeks to heal. In fact, your first 12 weeks postpartum are considered your “critical healing period”. That’s when you body is doing all the work to bring your linea alba back together and restore strength and function to your pelvic floor. It’s great that you feel amazing, but if you misread that as “healed” and head out for a run and then do 100 crunches, you may end up giving yourself a Diastasis Recti or pelvic organ prolapse. (that’s pretty scary). Honor what your body has just been through and allow it to rest and heal. That intense sweat sesh will still be there when you are really ready for it a few more weeks from now.


Questions about pre or postnatal exercise? Ask us in class! We love questions and want to make sure you are moving through your pregnancy and recovery with 100% confidence.

Why the "kegel" in Pump & Kegel is so Important

 
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Written by Dr. Erin Williams, DPT

The pelvic floor can be a confusing buzz word heard in the pregnant and postpartum world where most people know they should be doing something with it but are unsure what exactly! 

The pelvic floor are a group of muscles, fascia and connective tissue that act as a support system to the internal organs, and spans from the tailbone to the pubic bone.  During pregnancy the weight of the baby causes increased pressure and strain on the pelvic floor which is why it is so important to train and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy and postpartum much like one would strengthen the bicep muscle for increased arm strength. 

The labor and delivery process can cause injury and stretching to the pelvic fascia and muscles as well making it critical to give the pelvic floor extra attention after delivery and before resuming prior pre-pregnancy level of activity to avoid pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, and urinary incontinence (ie. peeing while jumping, coughing etc.). A Physical Therapist who specializes in pelvic health can serve as a valuable practitioner with the correct assessment of ones pelvic floor and provide guidance with stretches and exercises specific to the individuals presentation. While many people are aware of a “Kegel” it is not alway advised especially if the pelvic floor has hypertension and requires relaxation and stretching exercises. 


Join us with Dr. Erin Williams, DPT, on Wednesday, March 21st starting at 5:30pm.

 Dr. Erin is be explaining what the pelvic floor is and how to engage it correctly. We will also talk about Diastasis Recti, how to reduce the muscle separation as well as safe exercise prescription while pregnant.