The Biggest Mistake I Made While Pregnant
I often think about the pregnancies I had with my two beautiful boys and wonder, “is there anything I regret in those pregnancies?” The answer is always yes, of course. Maybe I did not heat up my deli meat enough. I would get a decaf coffee only to freak out later wondering if it was actually made decaf as I’d asked. But in hindsight, my biggest mistake? Not doing kegel exercises. Why, do you ask? Due to weakened kegel muscles, I developed a prolapsed bladder just a few weeks following the birth of my second son. Basically, this means my bladder was quite literally hanging a bit OUTSIDE of my vagina. Imagine the feeling of a soft, squishy ball constantly floating between your legs. Want another visual? Think of how your belly button can pop out at the end stages of pregnancy, but just not being your belly button.
The Importance of Strong Kegel Muscles During and After Pregnancy
Kegel muscles often get a bad rep as being known for only helping to keep a great sex life, but they are so much more important than just keeping the lady bits toned. They are a support for the pelvic floor. Meaning they keep your uterus, bowels, and bladder firmly in your pelvic area barring any unfortunate accidents.
Another great perk of strong kegel muscles during pregnancy would be the increase of control you will have during labor. Although pushing too fast may cause perineal damage, you would not want to push for hours on end if there was a way you could have safely hurried the process along.
Why You Should Care About Kegel Exercises During Pregnancy
Kegels are the little muscles that help you keep your, *ahem*, urine and feces held in while you are trying to rock the newborn to sleep. You know the story. The baby is almost asleep and you get that sudden urge to go to the bathroom. You find yourself rocking just a bit faster and your lullaby may be a little more strained, but the last thing you want to do is set your little bundle of joy down, go to the bathroom and risk starting the bedtime routine all over again. With kegels of steel, you won’t have to worry about this quite as much!
Then there’s the cough or sneeze incident. Most pregnant women are familiar with this. You let out a cough or a sneeze and you get a little leak so you start wearing pads. So extremely embarrassing.
During my prolapsed bladder adventure, when it first occurred, there was a period that I was not able to go to urinate at all. Who knew this was actually an issue? I didn’t…until this. I had to go to see my gynecologist and get a catheter placed in order to “empty” me out. This is also when I learned (the hard way) the all-important role that kegel muscles played.
Steps To Avoid Weakened Kegel Muscles
The last thing you want to have to worry about while being pregnant or immediately after having a baby is whether your uterus or bladder will descend into your vaginal area and start to play peek-a-boo with the outside world. I will share with you what my doctor instructed me to do. If, like myself, you find yourself in the predicament to already be experiencing a prolapsed bladder or uterus, please go see your Dr. There may be other issues at play or they may need to suggest something different for your situation.
For me, the first step was to perform kegel exercises every day. Three reps of 10-15 exercises. If I did not see an improvement after about 6 weeks, I had the following 3 options:
- Physical therapy
- Pessary to insert daily to keep the bladder in place
How To Get Those Kegels of Steel
Link to Mayo Clinic Article for their instructions on how to complete the exercises. They have a very clear cut way of explaining the steps. Or you can see my breakdown below:
- If you are not familiar with your kegel muscles, they are very easy to find. They are the muscles you use to either stop your flow of urine or to keep it from starting in the first place. As a test, start urinating. (This is an obvious one for most, but this test is best done while on a toilet) When you purposefully stop the urine flow, the muscles that you just used are your kegel muscles.
- Now you will want to isolate these muscles and do a “pull-up” on them. Mayo Clinic says to imagine you are clenching and lifting a marble, and that’s a pretty apt description. During this part, you will clench and hold the muscles as if you were trying to hold on to a marble. Try to the count of 3 and then let go. You’ve started!
- I would attempt this 3rd step while laying down after getting the kids to bed. You want to relax and try to only flex the kegel muscles. This part I still find particularly difficult and frustrating. Relaxing. While clenching and unclenching, and counting: Just Relax.
- Now that you’ve got the 3 top steps, you’ll put them all together and complete your full sets of exercises. My doctor advised doing three sets of 10 -15 clenches. A single kegel clench is holding the muscle for about 10 seconds and then releasing.
- *Clench, count to 10, unclench.* 10 – 15 times.
- For #1, complete this step 3 times.
Tips For Being Successful
- Be consistent. Completing the above exercises occasionally will not provide the results you are hoping for. I would do the exercises for 3 weeks straight and if I would miss one night my bladder would prolapse again. This let me know above all else, that if I was going to develop my 6-pack kegels, I would need to be consistent.
- Have realistic expectations. Even if you do have the strongest possible kegels, you may still experience a prolapsed bladder or uterus, or have urine leak during sneezing and coughing even after you’ve recovered from the birth of your baby.
- Follow your doctors’ advice. In the hospital, they tell you not to lift over a certain amount of weight or you could have complications. PLEASE listen to this one and take it seriously. They told me not to pick up my 3-year-old for about 6 weeks after I had my second baby. As a single mom(link to the post on how I became a single mom), this was often not an option and probably did not help my situation.
- You may have seen different kegel exercise “equipment” in online stores. I personally have no first-hand experience with these, however, from my research as well as reviews I have read, they can provide wonderful assistance and feedback to ensure you are doing the exercises correctly. They may be a viable option for those not quite ready to move on to physical therapy if the exercises outlined above do not work alone.
Hello Kegel Muscles, My Old Friend
I hope you have been able to gain some benefit from reading about my experiences due to weakened kegel muscles. I was very lucky in that after 8 weeks of doing the exercises (not the 6 they recommended) I was back to having a bladder that knew where it belonged.
Of course, having a prolapsed bladder or uterus is not entirely dependant on having built up strong kegel muscles. It can certainly be a strong deterrent though. In order to decrease your risk of having a prolapsed organ, or increase your ability to hold your urine and your bowels now and in the future, please do what I did not.
Exercise the kegels!
If you have any other tips for readers, and myself, on how to increase the strength of kegel muscles, please leave a comment below!