Working Out During Pregnancy: the Muscles Down There

Shh…We Should Probably Whisper

When we talk about working out during pregnancy, it’s a lot easier to talk about reps or steps or distance or weight than it is to talk about the muscles that do some of the hardest work during labor, delivery, and postpartum recovery; the muscles of the pelvic floor.

We live in a culture where physical fitness is motivated in part by wanting to look good, and where workouts are sometimes fueled by our shameless desire to brag to our friends on Facebook (or Fitbit or Garmin or MapMyRun) about having achieved our goals. We don’t live in a culture where we talk in “outside voices” about the physiology of labor and delivery, much less about doing Kegel exercises. So we should probably keep on whispering.

We do live in a culture where splurging on cute workout clothes from time to time is another good and acceptable motivation to work out, especially when you post pictures of yourself in those cute workout clothes to Facebook from the gym.

Ahem, this cute top, ahem:

30 Weeks Pregnant on MilliGFunk.com

I’m Not Judging

I’m not judging, I promise. I’m right there with you! Writing weekly blog posts about pregnancy fitness and health helps keep me motivated to work out and eat healthy, and the cute maternity workout clothes from FittaMamma haven’t hurt anything, either.

But when it comes to our pelvic floor during pregnancy, there’s no external validation: We can’t see or measure our pelvic floor strength, and we’re almost definitely not going to Facebook about it (though wouldn’t it be hilarious if we did). We can’t measure its waistline or celebrate by buying it a new pair of jeans in a size smaller than its old ones.

I mean really, why not just skip the Kegels altogether? It’s not like anybody’s going to know. If we can’t buy our pelvic floors cute workout clothes and headbands and colorful shoes, then really, what’s the point of making them work out?

Two words: Adult Diapers.

Where does one go in a blog post after you’ve talked about dressing your pelvic floor up in cute workout clothes? What does one write under, “Adult Diapers?” Oh, the messes I write myself into over here on MilliGFunk.com…

Well, let’s see: I could scare you away with a big dose of Too Much Information in the form of personal anecdotes about labor, delivery, and the pelvic floor. I could also leave your eyes glassy with a lot of stuff about the physiology of the pelvic floor. Or, I could share a cute belly bump picture with you in my cute workout clothes. Yes! Let’s go with that.

30 Week Belly Bump

MilliGFunk 30 Weeks Pregnant Wearing FittaMamma Clothes

Yep, 30 weeks already. Where does the time go? It goes toward a blog, a freelance business, two dogs, a toddler, and a husband who’s work schedule is erratic on the average week and pretty rotten on the worst week (I’ll write another day about how excited I am that he’ll have to be out of the country, twice, within weeks of our due date). But I digress. 30 Weeks!

30 Weeks means heartburn, trouble falling and staying asleep, and a constant need to pee. On the other hand, by 30 weeks, the bump is big enough that no one mistakes it for a beer gut (yeah!) and I get looks of sincere respect from other people at the gym. Okay, yes, sometimes those looks (especially from men) could be interpreted as fear, but who am I to presume?

Pregnancy Strains Your Whole Body

Another thing that 30 weeks can mean for some women is an increase in issues like gas and bloating, and the occasional (embarrassing) little leak that accompanies hearty laughter or a big sneeze. Runners I know have said that they have that some little bit of incontinence sometimes on long runs during or after pregnancy. Nobody said pregnancy was glamorous, and if they did, they were either out of touch or lying.

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on your body. On all of it. Your entire body takes on a new purpose during pregnancy, and that purpose doesn’t have much to do with you — that purpose is to sustain the tiny, vulnerable new life inside of you. You might notice the changes in your breasts and tummy the most, but there’s almost no part of you — pelvic floor included — that manages pregnancy without stress. The strain that pregnancy puts on your pelvic floor is real, and the best way to take care of that part of your body during pregnancy is to use it.

It’s weird.
I know.

It’s sort of embarrassing to even think about, much less to do.
I know.

It feels creepy/wrong/dirty/overtly sexual, and I’m just not comfortable with it.
I understand how unnerving it is, but you know what else is unnerving? When you have adult diapers in the cart at the store and you run into someone you know.

Respect for Our Amazing Bodies

I’m right there with you guys. The idea of “working out” my Kegel muscles creeped me out and embarrassed me to no end during my first pregnancy. You know what amazed me, though? That my body was able to use those same muscles to help me deliver an almost-eight-pound baby girl two years ago.

My body — and yours — is pretty amazing for being able to carry and deliver the next general of human life, so…

How can I disrespect muscles that can do that?

How can I ignore the “down there” muscles when they’re that incredibly powerful?

How can I approach the birth of our second child, having seen what labor & delivery does to a woman’s body, and not take better care of my amazing body (pelvic floor included) this time around? 

A Natural Delivery: Running a Marathon Without Any Training

I delivered our daughter naturally, and I hope to deliver our son the same way. I labored with her for 23.5 hours, making it the longest endurance event of my life.

I would never attempt to run a half or full marathon without properly training up, but I delivered our daughter with a basic disregard for the work my pelvic floor muscles would do in the process. What on earth made me think it was okay to expect my body to deliver a baby naturally without proper preparation? I don’t know, but I’m not going there again.

A Natural Delivery on MilliGFunk.com

I’ll save you that dose of Too Much Information I threatened earlier in this post by telling you that all was well with that first labor, delivery and recovery process. As we get more and more excited for our Bavarian Baby Boy’s arrival, though, I’m giving my body — including my pelvic floor — a little more respect and attention than I did the first time around.

If you’d like to learn more about Kegel exercises that help strengthen your pelvic floor, helping it to support the weight of your growing baby and helping you to successful deliver your little guy or girl, I encourage you to check out these posts on the FittaMamma website:

Fittamamma Logo Move Nurture Support-page-001Pelvic Floor Exercises 

Post Pregnancy Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pregnancy Exercise Video for Pelvic Floor

Pelvic Floor Exercises After Birth

Pregnancy Yoga for Pelvic Floor

FittaMamma has been an incredible partner for me through this active pregnancy, offering me several sets of fantastic maternity workout clothes in exchange for me writing blog posts that document my healthy and active pregnancy. You can find their entire line of supportive maternity workout clothes in the FittaMamma Shop.

I’m grateful for the ongoing opportunity as a blogger to work with such a fantastic brand. Come back every Friday to follow my second pregnancy with my #FittaMammaFriday posts!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by FittaMamma, who has graciously outfitted me with maternity activewear for my active pregnancy. FittaMamma supports active mammas by offering exercise tips, recipes, and maternity activewear that holds and supports your baby bump!

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