“Don’t forget to do your kegels!” is one mantra that every pregnant woman hears.
However, just how effective are kegel exercises?
As much as fellow moms and moms-to-be tell me how beneficial they are, I have heard and read many accounts of women who have regularly done kegels throughout their pregnancies only to suffer from horrible incontinence after birth.
I also know of women who have never done kegels and continue to have perfect post-partum urinary control.
Yesterday, I read that kegels may not always prevent incontinence. In fact, a biomedical scientist named Katy Bowman believes that doing too many kegels may cause pelvic floor disorder (which leads to incontinence)! Instead, Bowman recommends exercises such as squats to help strengthen the pelvic floor.
While I won’t go on ahead to immediately dismiss the recommendations of highly-respected medical sources such as the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics, I can’t help but wonder if Bowman’s claims have a ring of truth. After all, the pubococcygeus muscles (which kegels aim to strengthen) alone cannot attribute to urinary control. Wouldn’t the gluts and other core muscles also help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction?
A quick search on PubMed shows a review paper titled “Pelvic floor exercises during and after pregnancy: a systematic review of their role in preventing pelvic floor dysfunction” which states:
RESULTS: Antepartum PFEs, when used with biofeedback and taught by trained health care personnel, using a conservative model, does not result in significant short-term (3 months) decrease in postpartum urinary incontinence, or pelvic floor strength. Postpartum PFEs, when performed with a vaginal device providing resistance or feedback, appear to decrease postpartum urinary incontinence and to increase strength. Reminder and motivational systems to perform “Kegel” exercises are ineffective in preventing postpartum urinary incontinence. Postpartum PFEs do not consistently reduce the incidence of anal incontinence.
According to this paper, kegels are not helpful when done before delivery; only when done after, and only when you have something physical to squeeze.
Based on these findings, I’m inclined to believe that while kegels during pregnancy may be beneficial, they will not aid in post-partum incontinence unless combined with pelvic floor exercises. In addition, I should continue to do kegels after giving birth to help my body get back into its pre-pregnancy shape.
Can any moms chime in? Do you think kegels helped you in preventing urinary incontinence post-delivery?