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Benefits of pelvic floor exercise for pregnant women

Pelvic floor exercises, commonly known as Kegel exercises, have long been recommended by healthcare professionals for their many benefits, especially for pregnant women. These exercises, which focus on strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor, offer significant advantages during pregnancy and beyond, aiding in both the birthing process and postpartum recovery.

This article explores the importance of pelvic floor exercises for expectant mothers, backed by insights from experts in obstetrics and gynecology.
Understanding the pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is a complex structure composed of muscles and tissues that support the uterus, bladder, and rectum.

The health of the pelvic floor is crucial for pregnant women, as it bears the increasing weight of the baby

“The health of the pelvic floor is crucial for pregnant women, as it bears the increasing weight of the baby, which can strain these muscles,” explains Dr. Lateef Akinola, an OB-GYN in Medison Specialist Women’s Hospital & Fertility Assyst, Lekki, Lagos State.

During pregnancy, hormonal changes and the physical demands of carrying a baby can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to a range of issues including incontinence, reduced sexual function, and pelvic organ prolapse.

Benefits of pelvic floor exercises

Enhanced support for the growing baby: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles helps to support the uterus as it grows, reducing discomfort and the risk of injury. “A strong pelvic floor can better support the baby, particularly in the third trimester when the pressure is greatest,” notes Dr. Akinola.

Prevention of urinary incontinence: Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, leading to urinary incontinence. Regular pelvic floor exercises can strengthen these muscles, significantly reducing the risk of incontinence both during pregnancy and after delivery.

Approximately 50% of pregnant women experience urinary incontinence, but those who perform pelvic floor exercises are much less likely to suffer from this condition

“Approximately 50% of pregnant women experience urinary incontinence, but those who perform pelvic floor exercises are much less likely to suffer from this condition,” states Dr. Dr. Akinola.

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Easier labor and delivery: There is evidence to suggest that women with stronger pelvic floor muscles may have an easier time during labor and delivery. “These exercises can improve the ability to control these muscles during childbirth, potentially leading to a smoother delivery,” says Dr. Emily Patel, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine.

Speedier postpartum recovery: Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can also facilitate a faster recovery after birth. “Women who have maintained strong pelvic floor muscles tend to experience fewer postpartum complications, such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse,” Dr. Patel adds.

Doing pelvic floor exercise
Experts recommend starting pelvic floor exercises as early as possible during pregnancy.

“The sooner a pregnant woman begins these exercises, the better prepared her body will be for the demands of pregnancy and childbirth,” advises Dr. Akinola.

The exercises are simple, can be done anywhere, and involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles, similar to stopping the flow of urine.

Expert recommendations
For optimal benefits, it is crucial to perform pelvic floor exercises correctly and consistently

During pregnancy, hormonal changes and the physical demands of carrying a baby can weaken the pelvic floor muscles

“I recommend that pregnant women aim for three sets of ten repetitions each day,” says Akinola.

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Additionally, consulting with a healthcare provider or a pelvic floor physiotherapist can ensure that the exercises are performed correctly and tailored to the individual’s needs.

Conclusion
The practice of pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy comes with a host of benefits, from supporting the growing baby and reducing the risk of incontinence to easing the birthing process and aiding in postpartum recovery.

By integrating these exercises into their daily routine, pregnant women can significantly improve their pelvic health, contributing to a smoother pregnancy, delivery, and recovery period.

With the backing of healthcare professionals, pelvic floor exercises stand out as a key component of prenatal care, emphasizing the importance of muscular strength and resilience for expectant mothers.

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