Many pregnant women are instructed to do Kegel exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. This can be beneficial, but often it results in increased stress on the sacrum. To understand why this happens you need to look at how the pelvic floor muscles work – they create the “bottom of the bowl” within the opening of the pelvis. As the baby develops there is a lot of stress and strain in this region making these muscles tight and weak. When a muscle is chronically stressed the last thing you want to do is to contract it further. For this reason, I prefer to teach my patients how to do deep squats (a.k.a. “potty squats”) to stretch these muscles during of their pregnancy home care routine.
While doing squats you really want to activate and use your gluteal muscles (butt muscles). Proper positioning of the squat will determine if these muscles are used or not. You want to stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your back straight with your shins vertical as you lower your butt to the ground. The straighter your shins during the squat, the more you will use your gluteal muscles.
Depth of the Squat:
When starting this exercise it is helpful to not do the full squat the first time – you should work up to that in stages. By putting a chair or exercise ball under your butt you can safely stop at a comfortable distance with the goal of increasing the depth as your body becomes used to it. It can also help to have your back against the wall or hold on to a stable surface to help support you as you squat. Remember to keep your back straight.
The gluteal workout comes mostly from the slow control of the decent into the squat and ascent to the standing position. Once in the squat position you will relax, stretch the pelvic floor muscles and joints of the lower body. I suggest that beginners start with holding the squat for 5-8 seconds and to increase the time gradually up to 60 seconds or more. These squats should also be done in sets of 5 or more and be repeated frequently throughout the day.
If this routine causes you pain or you have difficulties with the motions stop doing them and seek professional advice.