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Important Pelvic-Floor Exercises for Moms-to-Be

Most pregnant women have heard that Kegel exercises are beneficial for strengthening the pelvic floor, but some don’t fully understand the function or importance of the region. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that acts as a sling at the base of the pelvis to help support the organs in the lower abdominal cavity. As a baby grows, the uterus relies on the pelvic floor more and more for support, which is why strengthening it is essential. 

A strong pelvic floor will prevent incontinence and help the body return to its pre-pregnancy state. However, only focusing on tightening the pelvic-floor muscles isn’t enough and won't make them stronger. In fact, during the birthing process the pelvic floor must be completely relaxed so the baby can pass through the birth canal.

The following exercises—Kegels done two ways and squats—are from my FlexPilates Prenatal class and will help pregnant women feel both a contraction of the pelvic-floor muscles and a release, ensuring strength and flexibility.  

Kegels: Elongated Hold

Begin in a seated position, either on the front of a chair with feet flat on the floor or on the floor with legs crossed. Make sure the spine and pelvis are neutral (not tilted forward or back). Inhale, filling the diaphragm and belly with air, and release the pelvic floor completely. Exhale and imagine drawing the pubic bone and anus together, from front to back, and drawing the sit bones together, from side to side. Think of bringing them together at the center of the body and drawing them upward like an elevator. Hold the elevator up as high as you can—without letting it fall—for up to 10 counts, continuing the exhale throughout. Release completely on an inhale and repeat.

  • -If you are seated on the floor, you can prop up your hips on a rolled towel or a yoga block to ensure that the pelvis is not tilted.
  • -If necessary, start with a two- to three-count hold and work up to 10 counts.
  • -Make sure to keep the breath moving throughout, using the exhale to fuel the contraction of the pelvic floor.  
  • -Make sure to keep the muscles of the legs, glutes and face relaxed throughout the hold.
Kegels: Quick Contract/Release

Contract and release the pelvic floor as quickly as you can 10 times in a row. Repeat.

  • -Even though the pace is quicker than an elongated hold, make sure the pelvic floor releases completely between each contraction. 
  • -Make sure to keep the muscles of the legs, glutes and face relaxed throughout. 

This exercise helps to strengthen the glutes, which will facilitate better pelvic-floor function and help prevent pelvic-floor dysfunction.  

Start by standing with feet hip-distance apart (or slightly wider for larger bellies). Inhale as you bend the knees and hinge the hips back and down while reaching the arms forward. Squat as deeply as possible, with the weight in the heels. Keep the knees directly over the ankles and the pelvis neutral (not tucked under). This position is a stretch and a release for the pelvic floor and glutes.

Exhale and stand back up to the starting position, contracting the pelvic-floor muscles and making sure to engage the glutes at the top to fully extend the hips. Repeat 10 to 15 times, holding the last squat down for 10 counts to really feel the release and opening of the pelvic outlet. Repeat the entire sequence three times. 

  • -If calves are tight, prop heels up on a rolled towel.
  • -Hold on to a railing, a door knob or a sturdy piece of furniture for balance.
  • -The transverse abdominis (the deepest layer of the abdominals) should also contract at the top of the squat, pulling the belly in from all directions: front to back, side to side, top to bottom.

Jenn Seracuse is the Director of Pilates at FLEX Studios. She is certified in Mat and Apparatus through Pilates Academy International, as well as TRX suspension training and Prenatal & Postnatal exercise. Jenn has been featured in several major publications including New York Magazine, SHAPE, People StyleWatch, New York Daily News and Metro New York. She has appeared in segments on NBC’s TODAY, FOX News and Telemundo. 


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