Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Want to Stay Dry, Sexy & Together? Respect your Kegels!

Picture this. I’m almost home after a long day of work. I climb the steps of my train station and start my 8 minute walk home. I’m hungry, I’m a little tired, but aside from that, it’s all good. Then BAM, it hits me like a bolt of lightening or like a blow-torch at my behind and I start power walking like a champ. I’m breathing steadily, trying to stay focused and probably mumbling my own pep talk. I look like a total nut but I don't care! My front door suddenly seems 5 miles away, and when I finally reach it and curse myself as I rummage through my bag for my keys I cross my legs and bounce to the music - except there is no music except for the rising crescendo of desperation in my head! I tumble through the door, shed my coat and bag and make a run for the bathroom. I need to PEE and NOW!

Even before I got pregnant the above scenario ensued all too frequently. Maybe I have an extra small bladder? Maybe I just stay a little too hydrated during the day? All I know is that after sitting or standing in one position on the train journey home, once I start moving my urine does too - without forgiveness!

Considering my non-pregnant predicament, I listened when the pregnancy websites, books and midwives gave me the "Kegels Speech." If you are or have been pregnant, you’ll most likely have heard someone wax lyrical about the importance of kegels, or pelvic floor exercises, probably near the start of your 9 month journey – I did.

The gist of the message – carrying a growing baby for 9 months with a system chock full of pregnancy hormones will put extra pressure on your pelvic floor muscles that is exacerbated when you stretch these muscles at birth. Your pelvic floor must stay toned and “in shape,” otherwise you can expect incontinence in all its forms from leakage to full fledged accidents during pregnancy and post birth.

But don’t worry say the fonts of wisdom. This is just another side effect of pregnancy! Plus, kegels are at your service. Performing your kegels daily will help you maintain a healthy pelvic floor and prevent incontinence. And even better, when you sign up to the kegels club you don’t do so just for pregnancy but for the rest of your life!

As if we pregnant ladies don’t have enough to think about before committing to a lifetime membership in the Kegels club. But alas, who wants to wear mama diapers because of an incontinent pelvic floor? I don’t, so I listened more about the art of kegels.

There are two main kegels exercises:
  • Engage your pelvic floor for a count of 10 and then slowly release it about 10-15 times, at several points during the day.
  • Engage your pelvic floor and then release it quickly about 10-15 times, at several points during the day.
My yoga teacher has been fantastic at explaining how to effectively DO these pelvic floor exercises, however for all the sources that TELL you to do them, many don't offer an easy or clear explanation of HOW to proceed. I'd heard engaging the pelvic floor was like holding in gas or stopping your pee midstream (though supposedly it's not healthy to do this frequently but more as a means of helping you id the correct muscles).  Then I read that the best test of "effective engagement" is to insert a finger in your vagina and see if you can feel yourself pulling your pelvic floor inward and upward.  Bet you can't wait to work that one into your daily routine!

After some digging, I found this Prenatal Yoga Center article, which gives a great all around explanation of how and why kegels are important, complete with diagram for those interested. It also details added benefits of a healthy pelvic floor including increased circulation to the pelvic area for better sex, a healthier back AND improved awareness of how to relax the pelvic floor when pushing in labor, reducing the chances of tearing. I'm sold!

Yes, kegels may be one more thing to accomplish during my busy days but they can be done on the sly from the office chair, train or in front of the TV and the all around benefits far outweigh any hassle involved.  In my opinion kegels are one piece of pregnancy advice that shouldn't be overlooked.  Ironically, I haven't had as many desperate power walks to the toilet since I got pregnant and started my kegels.....but then again, maybe I just religiously go to the bathroom more often.
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