Whether you gave birth vaginally, or via caesarean, there’s no denying the pelvic floor can feel a little “different” post pregnancy. Not only have you had 9-10 months of a growing uterus weighing down on your pelvic floor (exhausting in itself) but the pelvic floor can suffer some trauma during a vaginal birth, that some postpartum pelvic floor exercises can help remedy.
Before we start exploring the best pelvic floor exercises after pregnancy, we need to understand the anatomy and functions of the pelvis and the pelvic floor. Also, it would be useful (if you haven’t already) reading my article ‘How Soon After Pregnancy Can You Exercise?’ here.
What is the pelvis?
We can think of the pelvis almost like a bowl, that sits at the base of the spine and core, and at the top of the legs. It connects the upper half of the body to the lower half, provides support to the spine, and protects some of the abdominal organs.
At the base of the pelvis (or bowl analogy) there is no bony base – it is bottomless essentially. This means that, where it not for the pelvic floor, our internal organs would simply fall out. There would be no base to support our insides.
That is where the pelvic floor comes in…
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that layer to create a hammock shaped structure that spans from the coccyx (tailbone) at the back, to the pubic bone at the front, and out to the sit bones at the side. The muscles wrap around 3 openings; the Anus, Vagina and Urethra, and help with control of these openings. The pelvic floor also helps to lift and support the pelvic organs; the bowel, uterus and bladder.
When the pelvic floor muscles contract they restrict the passage of urine, faeces, and wind, but they also play a role in sexual function too. When the pelvic floor muscles aren’t working effectively postnatally (either they are too weak, or too tight/overactive) we may experience symptoms of incontinence, reduced sexual pleasure, pain during intercourse, or symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse (POP). Pelvic organ prolapse is when 1 or more of the organs in the pelvis slip down from their normal position and bulge into the vagina.
How do I strengthen my pelvic floor postnatally?
You can strengthen your pelvic floor with postnatal pelvic floor exercises! The pelvic floor is made up of both slow twitch muscle fibres, and fast twitch. Our slow twitch muscles can be imagined almost like long shift workers with good endurance, but not a huge amount of power. They tend to do the low level, everyday work for the pelvic floor. Fast twitch muscles are a bit like your back-up army that dive in when time gets tough. They don’t have huge endurance, but they have lots of power. They’ll be there when you sneeze, cough, lift something heavy etc.
So, we need to address both muscle groups with post-pregnancy pelvic floor exercises…
How? Do these pelvic floor exercises step by step daily
It’s important first that you nail the technique of contracting your pelvic floor muscles. We are aiming for both a “squeeze” and a “lift” sensation. First let’s start with the “squeeze”. Imagine you are holding in wind, and a wee, and gripping with your vagina. This will cause a contraction of the 3 openings of the vagina. Now for the “lift”, imagine a lifting up of the internal organs, almost like a sheet being pulled tight. This squeeze and lift approach will help you gain the maximum contraction of the pelvic floor.
Now you have learnt the technique put them into practice with the following:
Slow Twitch Holds: Here we want to aim to squeeze and lift our pelvic floor and hold for 6-8 seconds, and then release fully. This will help build our endurance levels. Aim for 10 of these, 2-3 times per day.
Fast Twitch Pulses: Here we want short, sharp lifts/pulses (always with a release). Aim for 10 of these, 2-3 times per day.
In Summary – Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises
Our pelvic floor muscles are like any other muscle in the body and must be trained to boost strength. Postnatally our pelvic floor can be weaker, and these are the best postpartum pelvic floor exercisesto help boost strength.
To note: For some women pelvic floor dysfunction may not be due to a weak pelvic floor, but maybe a tight or overactive pelvic floor. For those women Kegels would not necessarily be beneficial and a referral to a pelvic health physiotherapist would be advised.
- The NHS Squeezy App – Download here
- The Pelvic Floor Society – click here to visit
- Follow Pelvic Health Physio Emma Brockwell here
- NHS – What are Pelvic Floor Exercises? Read here
- ‘Postnatal exercise: The best workouts for building up your fitness again’ – Read here
- How Soon After Pregnancy Can You Exercise – Exercise After Birth?
- When is Diastasis Recti Considered Severe?
- Pelvic Girdle Pain During Pregnancy – What is it?
- Pelvic Floor Pregnancy – Everything You Need to Know
If you enjoyed reading this article on postpartum pelvic floor exercises and would like to discover more about postpartum fitness and your changing body please check out my postnatal exercise program ‘The Bump Plan’ for FREE today – simply click here to get started