Midwife: “Have you been doing your pelvic floor exercises?”
Me: “Ummm, yes” frantically starts squeezing.
Whilst awareness of the pelvic floor amongst moms and moms-to-be is growing, many of us are still so unsure of what pelvic floor exercises actually are. Or if we’re doing them right.
The result? Often we forget completely, or overdo it and get it wrong.
A simple guide to pelvic floor exercises for moms
This article provides a simple step-by-step breakdown of how to do pelvic floor exercises properly.
Tapping into over a decade’s women’s health experience – helping over 100,000 moms and moms-to-be improve their pelvic floor health before and after giving birth.
We take a deep dive into pelvic floor muscle training and the safest and most effective activities for your post-birth recovery and your journey towards restored body confidence.
How To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises Properly
There’s a lot more to pelvic floor training than squeeze, squeeze, squeeze! There’s a complex network of pelvic floor muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
The body, particularly the pelvic floor and pelvic organs (which includes your vagina, cervix, uterus, bladder, urethra, and rectum), can be greatly impacted by pregnancy and childbirth.
Birth trauma and focussing only on the ‘squeeze’ part of pelvic floor exercises can result in pelvic floor dysfunction including a hypertonic pelvic floor. That means ‘too tight’ muscles that cannot release and relax. This is just an ineffective as a loose or weak pelvic floor.
Start by learning how to engage your pelvic floor
First things first — here’s how to correctly engage your pelvic floor:
- Take a few gentle breaths in and out.
- On your next inhale, relax your belly and your pelvic floor muscles.
Tip: You don’t need to push or bear down, just release fully. Let everything go, but do not suddenly push or bulge outwards. It’s just a gentle release. Imagine your pelvic floor is a flower opening its petals or a jellyfish spreading its tentacles out.
- As you exhale, gently lift up your pelvic floor. The movement is more like rising up on the balls of your feet slowly than a firm squeeze.
Tip: Imagine sucking a smoothie up through a straw or picking up a grape using your vagina… Obvs don’t actually pick up stuff with your vagina 😉
- Do a few cycles of inhale release, exhale lift, relax.
The stretches below will work best if you start your workouts with this cycle. Use it to engage your pelvis and core muscles, get a sense of your muscle tone (either too tight or loose), and work on proper alignment.
Mastering the relaxation phase of pelvic exercises
The controlled, gentle breathing is essential too! Steady in, steady out (more on diaphragmatic breathing later).
The relaxation phase of any pelvic floor exercise is essential. It is just as important as the engagement part and the two go hand in hand in the strength and function of the pelvic floor muscles.
So that’s why we don’t furiously squeeze without fully relaxing the muscles too.
Quick note: This may be slightly different than what you’ve learned about pelvic floor squeezes or kegels. For a discussion around the pros and cons of kegels for moms check out this article. Or this article on kegels and pelvic organ prolapse.
What Are The Benefits of Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercise?
If done correctly, exercise helps with pelvic health and can help resolve some of these common pelvic floor issues:
- Urinary incontinence/stress incontinence
- Urine leakage
- Bowel control
- Chronic constipation
- Sexual function/sexual health including:
- Painful sex
- Un-enjoyable sex (just saying, MUTU helps with better orgasms)
What Pelvic Floor Exercises Should I Be Doing?
Besides the example above, there are a few other specific exercises you can add into your day. Here are 4 safe and effective postpartum pelvic floor exercises you can start today:
- Walking – Even 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference.
- Squats and lunges— Including deep and wide leg squats.
- Glute bridges — Lie on you back with your knees bent, engage your pelvis muscles, then slowly squeeze your bum up to a bridge on an inhale and slowly lower on your exhale.
- Lying heel slides — Lie on your back with your knees bent, engage your pelvic floor, then slide one heel forward with your inhale and back to bent with your exhale.
Want more evidence-based tips for caring for your pelvic organs and core muscles in pregnancy and/or postpartum? Check out MUTU’s guided fitness program.
How Do You Loosen Tight Pelvic Floor Muscles?
4 Stretches to Help You Release, Relax, and Strengthen
Not to be a broken record, but… pelvic floor strength is about way more than squeezing and crunching your way to tightness.
Stretching and releasing the tissues is just as important as strengthening them. This is especially true if you have hypertonic pelvic floor syndrome (an over tightening of the pelvic floor muscles).
Here’s four incredible stretches for strengthening, releasing and relaxing your pelvic floor:
- Wide leg child’s pose
- Cat – Cow
- Deep squat
- Happy baby pose
We’ll be diving into each of these stretches in more depth in future articles. Sign up for our MUTU Mama’s mailing list here to be one of the first to know.
How Soon After A Vaginal Birth Can I Start Exercising?
A few days after giving birth, or as soon as you feel ready and comfortable doing so, is the usual suggestion for resuming mild, aerobic activity postnatally after an uncomplicated vaginal delivery.
Walking, moderate stretching, pelvic floor/kegel treatment, and stomach exercises all fall under the category of “light exercise.”
It’s ideal to gradually increase your level of exertion. This often includes more severe muscle-building activities like yoga, pilates, lifting weights, and body weight exercises as well as any exercise where you work out hard enough that you cannot talk easily through the activity.
For further advice about returning to exercise postpartum read our in-depth article here.
How Soon After a C-Section or More Complicated Birth Can I Start Exercising?
It is a good idea to talk about your plans for starting pelvic floor exercise after having a surgical (c-section) or operative (forceps or vacuum aided) delivery with your primary care physician.
This conversation can start in the early stages of your recovery when healthcare workers are watching and assessing your recovery, and it can keep going throughout your routine checkups after your baby’s birth.
While some problems may require longer recovery times, most women may resume mild exercise relatively soon after more complicated births.
How Many Times a Day Should I Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?
For general personal health, everybody can benefit from taking part in physical activity for at least twenty to thirty minutes, five days a week as part of their daily routine.
If it feels more comfortable for you, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends splitting these up in ten minute walks or light stretching a few times a day early in the postnatal period.
Is Yoga Good For Pelvic Floor Muscle Training?
Many yoga classes designed specifically for pregnancy and postpartum feature stretches (such as the ones above) targeting this group of muscles.
Yoga can be a wonderful way to work on strength and stretch at the same time. In addition it’s a great activity to help you relax.
Is Deep Breathing Important When Doing Pelvic Floor Exercises?
There is an important connection between your diaphragm and your pelvic floor.
Along with your core muscles, the pelvic floor muscles help contract or release to make room for the expansion of your diaphragm when you breathe. They also contract to help bring on a productive cough.
Breathing and alignment are important for your pelvic floor no matter what, but it’s especially important if you are working through hypertonic pelvic floor disorder symptoms. Deep, slow breaths along with releasing and relaxing your pelvic floor can do a lot for the muscle spasms associated with that condition.
Read our latest article on breathing exercises for diastasis recti with a simple step-by-step overview of how to do it properly. This is a great stress reliever. Hopefully you feel more relaxed mentally and physically after.
The Importance Of Awareness For Your Mental Health And Pelvic Floor
We have often been taught that there is a separation between the mechanics of our bodies and our mental health. Luckily that’s changing.
The links between mental health and pelvic floor health are definitely there. Even before you start to stretch and exercise your pelvic floor (and the rest of your body), take some time to reconnect your brain with your bod.
Putting Awareness Into Your Movements And Intention Into Your Exercise
It sounds a bit woo-woo, but putting intention into your exercise and awareness in your movements is going to have a big impact.
“Engaging” your pelvic floor muscles also takes a good bit of mental work, so it’s worth noticing the connections you make between your thoughts about your body and pelvic floor and the sensations of using those muscles.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy And Pelvic Floor Massage
If you’re experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction your doctor or midwife might recommend you see a pelvic floor physical therapist.
These practitioners will likely show you some massages and stretches to help you have better control over your pelvic floor function.
Learn more about caring for your pelvic floor in pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.
MUTU System As A Method For Taking Your Pelvic Floor Exercises To The Next Level
Now that you’ve mastered connecting with your pelvic floor muscles, you’re ready for next-level pelvic floor exercises and ninjary!
Whether you’re in pregnancy or postpartum you will find specific pelvic floor and core workouts in the full MUTU System program. It’s 12 modules to get you back to strength and function again.
- Learn how to properly engage your pelvic floor
- Get a strong pelvic floor. No more incontinence, leaks or wearing pads.
- Enjoy pain-free sex
- Know you’re doing your workouts properly
97% of women who couldn’t successfully locate or engage their pelvic floor muscles before, were able to after using MUTU System.
About The Author
Wendy Powell is a pre and postpartum health expert, health tech founder and CEO. She is an international speaker and a globally recognized voice and leader in maternal physical and mental health recovery.