Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Squatting Better than Kegels for Childbirth?

In the wee hours of the morning, when I am suffering from a horrible case of pregnancy-induced insomnia after having to wake up for the umpteenth time to use the bathroom, I start looking at a running list of webpages that I have been intending to read when I have the chance.  The pack rat in me can't help but "keep" things even if it is in an electronic format.  Anyway, I stumbled upon an interesting blog post that I first read about shortly after my first baby was born.  It was entitled, "Pelvic Floor Party Kegels are NOT invited."  At the time this was posted, I had just had my first baby and didn't give it much thought but the premise intrigued me.  Now that I am expecting my second baby, it seems very interesting.  The premise of this post (written by a runner - which I used to do a lot of once upon a time), is that weak gluteal muscles (the buttocks) in conjunction with doing too many kegels are BAD and can lead to  "pelvic floor disorder" (PFD).

PFD can cause stress incontinence.  Stress incontinence is something many pregnant women (including myself) experience.  It is the inability to maintain bladder control under "stressful" situations like sneezing or coughing.  The theory behind this post was that by strengthening weak gluteal muscles through squatting exercises and by eliminating excessive crunches and doing more "plank" positions to strengthen the core, you can avoid PFD.  A weak pelvic floor can also cause uterine prolapse.   Uterine prolapse can be a result of childbirth.  A prolapse happens when the "ligaments supporting the uterus become so weak that the uterus cannot stay in place and slips down from its normal position."  In a follow-up post, they also explored how too many kegels (which all pregnant women are told will help labor and delivery) may actually make labor and delivery harder by tightening the pelvic floor.

These posts were very much "anti-kegel" and very "pro-squatting" as a way to prepare for labor.  I'm not sure what to think since I couldn't find any scientifically published peer-reviewed articles detailing these findings in a study.  However, as I began to think about it, throughout human history, people have been squatting to do things.  I remember going to Korea and Japan and seeing toilets that you had to squat over to use.  My western-raised self recoiled in horror at the thought of having to squat over an open hole to use the bathroom but maybe there is something to it.  In western society, we rarely squat when we do anything (including giving birth).

The post recommends squatting three times a day in preparation for childbirth to help strengthen the pelvic floor.  The following website gives detailed instructions on how to do a "proper" squat in the "hunting and gathering mama" way.  Having a nice round rear end is a good thing when it comes to having strong gluteal muscles and subsequently strong pelvic floor muscles.

At this stage of the game, I'm willing to try anything that will make the prospect of childbirth easier.  Squatting doesn't seem like it would hurt so I may start my squatting routine now.  I may also consider (depending on the pain and if I need an epidural) squatting during labor.  I can help strengthen my pelvic floor and allow gravity to help get this baby out.  I guess we'll just have to see how successful this theory really is.

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