Pregnant women often do Kegel exercises to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles and to help prevent incontinence. But some people think that having strong pelvic muscles makes labor harder. A group of researchers in Trondheim, Norway, looked at women who had exercised.
What the researchers wanted to know: Does training the pelvic floor muscles have any effect on labor?
What they did: The study was conducted mainly to find out whether the exercises would prevent urinary incontinencewhich they did. About 150 women trained with a physical therapist for an hour a week between the 20th and 36th week of pregnancy, and about as many women acted as a control group but were allowed to do pelvic-floor muscle exercises on their own if they wanted.
What they found: Women who'd done the training were less likely to have to actively push for more than an hourwhat the researchers defined as "prolonged second-stage labor."
What the study means to you: Doing Kegel exercises helps prevent incontinence and might make your labor just the tiniest bit easier.
Caveats: The researchers didn't find a significant difference in the actual length of the second stage of labor.
Find out more: This page from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains how to do the exercises. The diagrams are graphic, so consider yourself forewarned: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov
Read the article: Salvesen, K.A. and S. Morkved. "Randomized Controlled Trial of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training During Pregnancy." British Medical Journal. Aug. 14, 2004, Vol. 329, pp. 378380.
Article online: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com