Keep On Kegeling
Some concerns have been raised about the effects of the standard pelvic muscle exercises done during pregnancy on labor and delivery. The ubiquitous Kegel exercises, taught in every childbirth preparation class, and meant to strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent later urinary incontinence, have been blamed for causing complications during labor and birth. But a new study by Norwegian researchers seems to have knocked out this theory for good.
At the center of the Kegel exercise controversy was the claim of some medical professionals that strengthening the pelvic floor may make it overly strong so that it will not be elastic and pliable enough to open up for delivery. According to this theory, strengthening the pelvic floor makes for all kinds of difficulties and complications. Norwegian researchers decided to explore whether this supposition could be supported by facts. To that end, the team surveyed almost 19,000 women who delivered babies between the years 2000-2005. The upshot of this investigation was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology and the report reveals that women who do lots of Kegel exercises have no heightened risk for tears, emergency Cesarean sections, or assisted deliveries with instruments such as forceps or vacuum.
Furthermore, says lead researcher Dr. Kari Bo, of Oslo's Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, women need to know that these pelvic-floor exercises definitely lower their risk for urinary incontinence. Now that women know that Kegel exercises won't lead to childbirth complications, they can indulge to their hearts' content in this simple exercise which involves tightening and relaxing the groin muscles several times a day.
In the Norwegian study, 28% of the participants were doing Kegels three times a week or more often by their 30th week of gestation. But 43% of the women did them maybe once weekly and sometimes not at all.
Out of the infrequent Kegelers, a rough figure of 7% incurred severe tearing during delivery as opposed to only 6% of those who did Kegels often. Forceps and vacuum deliveries ran 16% and 15% respectively, while emergency cesarean rates ran 9.5% and 7.5%. In other words, there was no real difference in any of these complication rates among either group.
Bo says that women should be reassured that Kegel exercises will not have a negative impact on their labors and deliveries, even if some health professionals continue to insist otherwise. It's just a myth, says Bo.