The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a sling across the base of the pelvis, and support everything inside your pelvic cavity, and that includes your uterus, bladder and the lower part of your bowel. Kegel exercises refer to the action of contracting or squeezing this group of muscles on a regular basis.
If you are not aware of these muscles, try starting and stopping a stream of urine. This simple but effective exercise will bring all the pelvic muscles into play and is a useful method of practicing Kegel exercises. You can also practise Kegel exercises during sex. Squeezing the penis and getting feedback from your partner is not only good childbirth preparation, it also improves sexual pleasure for both man and woman.
Pregnant women should get in the habit of doing a series of five Kegels ten to 20 times a day. This means contracting and releasing the whole pelvic area.
Other exercises that should be done on a daily basis are stretches for the thigh area and abdomen. Squatting and sitting frequently in the taylor position, as well as sitting with the heels together and pushed close to the body are good thigh stretchers. Pelvic rocking or tilting (tucking your seat under and flattening the lower back) strengthens the abdominal muscles, prevents backache and improves posture.
Pelvic rocks and Kegels can be done while washing the dishes, waiting for the bus or watching T.V.
Also important for childbirth preparation are gentle exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles such as abdominal tightening and straight curl ups.
Pregnancy is a good time to pay special attention to your posture whether sitting, standing or lying down. Pregnancy produces changes in the center of gravity which have to be adjusted to. It also puts a great strain on your back and spine.
If you develop back and hip problems during pregnancy it is often a good idea to see a chiropractor experienced in dealing with pregnant women. In fact, I routinely advise pregnant women to see a good chiropractor on a ongoing basis throughout the pregnancy in order to prevent problems from developing.
Breathing And Relaxation
An important aspect of any exercise program is breathing and relaxation exercises. Learning the different types of breathing including deep breathing, chest breathing, the panting breath and the pushing breath, as well as relaxation techniques provide you with an essential tool for labour. These can be learned in prenatal class or from books and tapes. After birth, deep breathing and relaxation practices remain valuable like skills for reducing stress in your life.
Many breathing exercises can be incorporated into your stretches. Generally it is easier to stretch on the out-breath.
If you experience pain, dizziness, nausea, or spotting during exercise, stop right away and consult your doctor.
If you are already fit, you can maintain your level of fitness during pregnancy and need only introduce specific exercises for childbirth preparation. If they are not already part of your exercise routine, you will also need to introduce breathing, relaxation practice and stretching exercises.
If you are considering pregnancy in the next year or so, now is the time to start an enjoyable exercise program that can be continued easily throughout pregnancy. Remember that it is never too late in the pregnancy to begin a gentle set of exercises.
Perhaps the best advantages of exercising during pregnancy and afterwards are that you recover faster after delivery and that you regain your figure more quickly. However, it is not wise to try and lose those extra pounds until after you have stopped breast-feeding.
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