Exercises for the perineum (Kegel), thighs and abs
As you’ve probably already noticed, your body is undergoing a lot of changes right now. These changes can cause discomfort and affect certain parts of your body. Fortunately, you can do exercises that will help you ease the pain and pains of pregnancy and childbirth, and speed up your recovery afterwards. Your partner can help you do many of these exercises. To reduce back pain during pregnancy, facilitate delivery and accelerate recovery during the postpartum period, it is advisable to strengthen the muscles of 3 regions in particular:
- The perineum ( Kegel exercises )
- The legs
- The abdomen (belly)
The pelvic floor muscles, or perineum, support the pelvic area organs and surround the bladder, vagina and rectum. The strengthening of these muscles has three main benefits:
- It prepares the muscles of your pelvic floor for delivery.
- It prevents urinary incontinence, these small urine losses that can occur when you cough, laugh or lift heavy things.
- It tones the muscles of your vagina, which facilitates the resumption of sexual relations after the birth of the baby.
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the muscles of the perineum. These exercises involve stretching and contracting the muscles that support the bladder and urethra and releasing them. These are the muscles that you use when you try to slow down or stop the jet of urine (without the help of the muscles of the buttocks and thighs).
The advantage of these exercises is that you can do them anywhere, anytime, whether by car, in a queue or in front of the television. To help you do this, use the image of the elevator to help you contract the perennial muscles:
- When the muscles are at rest, the lift is at the 1st level;
- When the elevator goes up to 2nd, the 3rd and the 4th level, contract each time a little more the pelvic floor muscles;
- The 4th level, hold the contraction 10 seconds and release slowly;
- Repeat the decrease and looseness a few times, several times a day.
If the exercise is well done, the muscles of the buttocks and thighs should remain relaxed during movement.
The perennial massage consists of manually stretching the muscles of the vagina. It would increase blood circulation in the perineum and thus improve tissue elasticity. According to studies carried out on the subject, the perennial massage performed in the weeks preceding delivery would reduce the risk of injuries requiring stitches and also reduce the risk of undergoing an episiotomy. However, this effect would be very modest and would be limited to women giving birth to their first baby.
You can do this massage yourself or ask your partner. After using a lubricant on the fingers, insert them gently into the vagina and then massage gently downwards by making a U-shaped movement. Some experts suggest practising the perennial massage every day from the 36th week of pregnancy, while others believe that a couple of times in the week before the birth is sufficient.
During the 2nd stage of delivery, you should spread your legs as far as possible and push to promote the descent of the baby into the vagina actively. You must also strengthen and soften the thigh muscles in preparation for this essential push work that will help your baby to see the light of day. Leg strengthening exercises will also help improve blood circulation and reduce the appearance of varicose veins.
A simple way to reach the muscles inside the thighs is to sit in “Indian” (cross-legged position) and tilt slightly forward. Another use is to sit on a chair, legs apart, and place hands on the thighs near the knees. You must then lean your body slightly forward. Stretches should be slow and until a stretching sensation is reached, below the threshold of pain. Hold for five breaths without making any sudden movements.
You can strengthen your thighs with “squats” type exercises. With or without dumbbells in your hands, place your feet shoulder-width apart. With your back straight, your abdominals contracted and your chest bent, bend your knees as if you were going to sit on a chair and push your buttocks backwards. Your knees should form a right angle. Then reassemble and repeat. Do not drop your knees forward.
During pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch. You must also prepare them for delivery, as you will also have to use them to get your baby down into the vagina. Strong abdominal muscles also help reduce back pain in your belly, which is gaining momentum over the months.
Two simple exercises can be done throughout pregnancy to strengthen the abdominals. However, you must make sure that you do not have a separation of the abdominal muscles called diastase of the rights. If this is the case, it is not recommended to do abdominals. Moreover, from the 4th month, avoid exercises while lying on your back, as this position can affect blood circulation in the legs. If you start doing these exercises in early pregnancy, it will be easier to continue when your belly is bigger to 2 e and three e quarter.
How do you know if you have a diastase?
The abdominal uterus is caused by stretching of the abdominal muscle as the uterus grows. To find out if you have a diastase:
- Lie first on your back, one hand under the name of your neck;
- Then lift the shoulders off the ground by contracting the abdominal muscles;
- If you can push more than two fingers on the midline of the body, near the navel, you probably have a diastase of the rights.
- The doctor or midwife can also help you diagnose this condition with a physical exam.
Abdos: exercise 1
This exercise involves strengthening the abdominal muscles during breathing. It can be practised in several positions: sitting, standing with your back against a wall or lying on your back. Take a slow breath and gradually exhale while contracting the abdominal muscles. Imagine a belt that presses against your stomach and presses your belly button towards your spine.
Try to tilt the pelvis forward and feel the hollow of your lower back becoming flat. The bottom of your back should then approach the end of the chair, wall or floor. Relax and repeat the exercise. You can repeat this exercise 5 to 10 times per sequence and run multiple courses a day.
Abdos: exercise 2
This exercise involves raising your knees while sitting. Sit on a chair or exercise ball and adopt a good trunk position, i.e. relaxed shoulders as well as a straight back and lay down. Avoid bending your back. Your feet should be flat on the ground, and your knees bent at right angles.
Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles (as in the previous exercise). Then lift one foot off the ground and bring your knee to your chest, without bending your back. Maintain the contraction of your abs and the excellent posture of your trunk.
Lower your foot down quietly, then repeat the exercise with your other leg. Depending on your abilities, perform 5 to 10 repetitions with each leg. You can repeat this exercise several times a week.
Sometime after delivery, it is also recommended to do abdominal strengthening exercises. However, ask your doctor or midwife to make sure it is safe in your condition.