Exercise Can Make Childbirth Faster and Easier

by Colette Bouchez

New Study Shows Pelvic Exercises Reduce Risk of Prolonged Labor

Want to make your birthing experience faster and easier?

Would you just love to avoid an arduous and prolonged second stage of labor?

If so, just spend a few minutes a day doing some simple pelvic exercises beginning in your 20th week of pregnancy.

That's the word from a new study featured in the November issue of "Obstetrics and Gynecology."

It was here that a group of European physicians reported that women who participated in simple pelvic floor training exercises -- including moves like the "Kegel" -- were a lot less likely to have a prolonged second stage of labor, when compared to women who skipped the training classes and didn't do any muscle tightening exercises.

The study, which took place at Trondheim University Hospital in England, included some 300 healthy pregnant women. The doctors randomly assigned half the mothers-to-be to participate in a structured program of pelvic exercises, while the other half did not. As each woman gave birth doctors then noted the length of their labor experience, particularly the oftentimes-painful second stage of labor.

The result: A full 38 percent of the women who did no exercises had a prolonged second stage of labor, lasting more than an hour, compared to just 24% of the women who regularly participated in the pelvic exercises. There was also less "active pushing" during the extended second stage of labor among the women who did the pelvic workouts during pregnancy.

In earlier studies doctors proved that "Kegels" and other similar exercises can help stretch and condition muscles that support the pelvic organs, including the bladder and uterus. When done regularly during pregnancy this can help prevent incontinence, as well as reduce the risk of painful tears in the perineum during delivery - that's the delicate area of tissue that runs from the front to the back of "V" zone.

If you continue your Kegels after giving birth, studies also show you may have an easier time controlling stress incontinence or other birth-related pelvic problems during your post partum period.

To do a "Kegel" you must first isolate the muscles involved. To do this, experts say try stopping and starting urine flow while going to the bathroom. The muscles you use to stop the flow of urine are the ones you need to pay attention to.

Once you have identified how these muscles feel when contracted, you simply contract and hold them tight for up to 10 seconds and then release, between 10 and 30 times, up to several times a day. Many women find it helpful to associate the "Kegel" with an activity they do regularly, such as talking on the phone, driving, or even sitting on the train or bus - and don't worry, no one will know you're working on your pelvis, even on a crowded bus!

For more information on pelvic floor exercises -- and other important ways to have a safe and happy delivery -- visit the Pampering Mom website.

Colette Bouchez is an award winning medical journalist with more than twenty years experience. She is the former medical writer for the New York Daily News, and the top selling author of The V Zone, co-author of Getting Pregnant and upcoming book, Your Perfectly Pampered Pregnancy. Currently a daily medical correspondent for HealthDay News Service/The New York Times Syndicate, and WebMD, her popular consumer health articles appear daily online, as well as in newspapers nationwide and in Europe and Japan. She is a regular contributor to USAToday.com, ABCNews.com, MSNBC.com and more than two dozen radio and television news stations nationwide. She lives in New York City.

Copyright © Colette Bouchez. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.