A clinical trial involving over 800 pregnant women has found that kegel exercises during pregnancy helped treat and prevent pelvic floor problems.
Pregnancy is a time when pelvic floor muscles can be put through a lot of strain– not just during labor but from the pressure on the muscles during pregnancy. The strength of pelvic floor muscles is often assessed by level or urinary incontinence.
While some amount of incontinence is common at the end of pregnancy–the baby’s head is literally resting on the bladder–this study found that pregnant women in the who had been given instruction in pelvic floor exercise earlier in pregnancy had reduced incontinence in late pregnancy compared to women who were just told to “do kegels.”
The workouts also appeared helped women who had incontinence issues earlier in pregnancy. This is the first study of this scope to look at the effectiveness of kegels in pregnancy.
In the study, Norwegian researchers randomly assigned 855 women in their second trimester to either continue with standard care (the recommendation to do kegels but not active instruction) or take part in a weekly session of low-impact aerobic exercise and strength training, including kegels. After 12 weeks, 11% of the workout group had problems with incontinence (urinary leakage at least once a week), compared to 19% of the women who had not done the exercises.
The researchers report in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that the workouts not only prevented problems but helped treat them. Of the pregnant women who reported incontinence earlier in pregnancy, 24% of the workout group had them at the end of pregnancy, compared to 35% of the women non-workout group.
“The results from the present trial indicate that pregnant women should do pelvic floor muscle training to prevent and treat urinary incontinence in late pregnancy,” the researchers write. And it helps to have actual instruction which can be given in prenatal classes or via your care-provider.
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photo: Sean McGraths/Flickr