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The pelvic floor is a "hammock" of muscles attached to the pelvic girdle. These muscles hold the pelvic organs in place. Pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises strengthen your lower pelvic muscles. This helps prevent a long period of pushing during labor.1 Start doing daily Kegel exercises while you are pregnant, and continue doing them after childbirth.
See a picture of the pelvic floor muscles.
During pregnancy and delivery, the pelvic floor can become stretched and weakened, commonly causing urine control problems (urinary incontinence) for months to years after childbirth. A weakened pelvic floor can also allow one or more pelvic organs to sag, as in the case of uterine prolapse. Doing regular Kegel exercises helps prevent urine control problems (incontinence) after childbirth.2, 3
Kegel exercises are only effective when done regularly. They can be performed while traveling, at work, or at odd moments during the day. For example, Kegel—creator of the exercises—recommended doing 5 pelvic floor exercises when you first wake up, 5 more when you get out of bed, and 5 pelvic floor exercises every half hour all day long.3
- Salvesen KÅ, Mørkved S (2004). Randomized controlled trial of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy. BMJ, 329(7462): 378–380.
- Mørkved S, et al. (2003). Pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy to prevent urinary incontinence: A single-blind randomized controlled trial. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 101(2): 313–319.
- Lentz GM (2007). Physiology of micturition, diagnosis of voiding dysfunction, and incontinence: Surgical and nonsurgical treatment. In VL Katz et al., eds., Comprehensive Gynecology, 5th ed., pp. 537–568. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
Last Revised: July 23, 2012
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