The pelvic floor muscles support the rectum, vagina, bladder, and urethra. As a woman labors, it is necessary for the pelvic floor muscles to relax in order to facilitate passage of the baby through the birth canal. In fact, when coaching a woman while she is pushing, an important component is encouraging her to relax those muscles in order to make pushing more effective.
There is some thought that if you work out routinely, the pelvic floor muscles will become too strong and potentially affect the progress of labor and impede pushing the baby out. In addition, it has been suggested that having strong pelvic floor muscles may increase the risk of tearing during delivery. On the contrary, there is another school of thought: Having strong pelvic floor muscles helps labor and pushing. The truth is that there is no definitive answer—the data is conflicting. What we do know is that having strong pelvic floor muscles decreases the risk of urinary and fecal incontinence after childbirth, especially after having multiple babies.
If you are interested in starting an exercise program or wishing to maintain one, it is always important to let your doctor know exactly what you are doing. There are some conditions in pregnancy that make working out unsafe. If you already have an established routine, please pay attention to your body and make adjustments as needed. This will be necessary as your pregnancy progresses. Finally, if you experience bleeding, fluid leakage, contractions, or just generally don’t feel good while working out, stop and let your doctor know. Remember, you are working out for two and are the gatekeeper for the both of you.
Intrigued? Here's everything you wanted to know about your pelvic floor muscles, plus some doctor-approved ideas on how to strengthen them.