There are many primal fears involved in giving birth. For many women, Fear of a Trashed Vagina is right up there with the worst of them. Fortunately, in most cases, this fear is fairly unwarranted. (In most cases most of the other primal fears are unwarranted, too, but we’re talking about vaginas here.) And when we’re talking about vaginas and pregnancy, what we’re really talking about is specifically the pelvic floor: the deep muscles in your pelvis that control the flow of urine, the tightness vs. looseness of your vaginal opening, and generally run the vagina show from the inside. These are the muscles used to push the baby out in a vaginal birth, and they’re also crucial for the support of your internal organs later.
Childbearing has a bad reputation where the vagina is concerned. Scary stories of stretching and tearing and post-pregnancy peeing every time you sneeze abound. It is true that birth will stretch your vagina in ways you might not want to think about too much beforehand. But it is also true that permanent, noticeable effects are not as common as lore leads you to believe. And it turns out there is a lot you can do to keep your pelvic floor in good shape through pregnancy, birth and beyond. For example…
Kegel Exercises. These exercises, so named because they were invented by a guy named Kegel, involve tightening and loosening the pelvic floor muscles. They will help you gain strength and control for childbirth (hint: don’t forget to pay attention to the LOOSENING part of the exercise…you’re not bodybuilding here). Kegels work. But only if you do them right. Otherwise, you could end up doing a lot of work for nothing, or making it harder for your muscles to relax in childbirth which can make things more difficult. This is an awesome resource for specific control techniques.
See more about this and 9 more important things you need to know about your pelvic floor before giving birth on the very thorough slide show 10 Facts About Your Pelvic Floor (written by our own Ceridwen Morris)!
photo: Athena’s pics/flickr