Use these images below to get started on your pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy. If you know how to activate them during pregnancy it can help prepare you for labour and make it easier to strengthen them after birth.
Pelvic Floor Anatomy: as you can see the pelvic floor muscles are shaped like a sling running from your pubic bone to your tail bone. They enclose your vagina, urethra and your anus. Their job is to help close off these openings and to keep your internal organs lifted.
Pelvic Floor Pulses. This is one of the best exercises to start with, quick contractions of just your pelvic floor muscles squeezing closed and lifting. For full video instructions click here
The Knack Exercise: Great for helping your body learn to activate your pelvic floor muscles before downward pressure inside. Eg cough, sneeze laugh etc. For full video instructions click here
Hip Opening Exercise: this is where your muscles are working while you’re doing something else. Moving into the phase 2 of your exercises. For full video instructions click here
Sitting Leg Lifts: This is slightly harder again where you are working your pelvic floor and deeper core muscles on an unstable base. For full video instructions click here
What are the easiest options for pelvic floor exercises for mums? we know you’re tired, don’t have much time, typically have a bit of baby brain and are sick of having this bulging stomach and leakage. After seeing mums in the clinic as a physio for over 12 years here are my quickest and most effective pelvic floor exercises.
First of all how do you even find your pelvic floor? Well the simple version is focussing on your vaginal walls closing and lifting up inwards. Like you have a straw inserted. The part where you have to concentrate is to relax your stomach, buttock and leg muscles while doing the exercises.Lucky for you I have a video to talk you through how to find your pelvic floor here.
Quick and Effective Pelvic Floor Exercises:
Pulses – fast on and off of the muscles you can do in bed, while feeding, where ever you are just to get your muscles working again. 8 reps and up to 3-4 times/day. Video Here
Endurance exercise – this is by the far the best exercise however it does require a little more focus than the pulses. Breathe in, squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles (when they contract they will close the vaginal walls and lift inward) then breathe all the way out while maintaining your contraction. Relax your muscles and repeat. 8 of these in the morning and 8 at night.
Whether you’re a new mum or you have older children, you still need to have a strong pelvic floor. No one should have to put up with leakage, feeling their stomach bulge out or not feeling like themselves anymore. That’s not why you became a mum.
If you’re struggling to get your muscles working or need more of a routine to stick to then take a look at our Lose Your Baby Belly program, it’s easy and so effective at stopping your leakage, reducing your prolapse and can make you feel strong and tight. Did I also mention an added benefit of getting rid of your baby belly and reducing your abdominal separation. It’s perfect if you have children up to 5 years old.
Wow what happened to my stomach? It looks like it’s split in half and not working. I feel bulging coming out when I stand up, it’s flabby and it feels so weak! I feel horrible. Does this sound like you? It’s very common after pregnancy, It’s called Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA) or abdominal separation. Where the tummy muscles have stretched and the fascia has separated leaving you feeling weak and flabby. Here’s what you can you do about it!Abdominal Separation
DRA: This is where the fascia (I like to think of it as a piece of glad wrap over the top and in between your muscles holding them all together) and connective tissue between your Rectus Abdominis (6 pack muscles) has stretched and weakened leaving a gap between your muscles. Add in the skin over the top stretching and it looks and feels like a mess. Don’t worry! It doesn’t have to be this way. So why is this a problem?
It can lead to weakness in the stomach muscles leaving you at risk of back pain and postural related pain.
It disrupts the lumbo-sacral support and muscle system. (lower back and pelvis area)
DRA and Pelvic Floor dysfunction often go together (See our FAQ’s for PF dysfunction)
A thinner lining of the abdominal wall creates less support for your inner organs and can leave you at risk of a hernia of your bowels.
100% of women have some level of separation of the abdominal muscles in the third trimester. (Hilliard and Brown 1996, Diane Lee 2013)
For a lot of women with DRA their gap closes significantly between day 1 and 8 weeks post baby. However if their gap remains widened at 8 weeks and if left untreated the gap at 8 weeks remains the same at 1 year post baby. (Cauldron et al 2008, Liaw et al 2011)
66% of women with DRA were also found to have a pelvic floor dysfucntion Eg Incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse. (Spitznagle et al 2007)
What NOT to do!
Crunches! This is a no no as it increases your intra-abdominal pressure and your stomach muscles and pelvic floor aren’t ready to cope with that. It can make your bulging worse and harder to recover from.
Planks without sufficient Pelvic Floor and TA strengthening first.
Bracing your stomach muscles – this can increase the bulge from within.
High impact sport without inner core and pelvic floor strengthening first.
So what can you do about it?
Core exercises to reduce your abdominal separation, especially an exercise called a head lift which aims to ensure your pelvic floor muscles are switched on, your TA (deeper core muscle) is working and a slight head tilt to allow the outer abdominals to contract. Adding extra hand pressure to your muscles to push them closer together and down towards your spine. There is no bulging or doming from the tummy outwards! This is a key exercise of our New Mum RecoveryProgram which is so important given your best chance of recovering these muscles is within the first 8 weeks after birth.
Be careful with getting up from the chair or bed, use compression with a towel or your hands around your tummy for the first few weeks.
Be careful lifting your baby – try to use your pelvic floor muscles and TA as best you can.
Wear recovery support shorts – we love the SRC recovery shorts to give you that extra compression and support in your early phase.
Ease back into exercise with gentle walking and a pelvic floor strength and recovery program first.
So even though you might feel like there is nothing you can do, there certainly is. Start with pelvic floor exercises to reduce your abdominal separation, then build up your core muscles through our New Mum Recovery Program. Remember the best chance at closing your abdominal separation is within the 1st 8 weeks of having your baby using core exercises.
Want to find out how strong your pelvic floor is? Take our quiz.
Do you think your pelvic floor muscles are as important as everyone says they are? Really think about that! Do you even know what they do?
These muscles have so many roles and really important ones too:
Help keep your organs inside and lifted
Supporting you during your pregnancy
They help guide your baby into your birth canal
Holding wee and poo in continuously without you even thinking about it
Helping you feel pleasure by arousing your clitoris and increasing the sensation of your orgasms
I’d say they are pretty important muscles! And ones I would want to know about! Would you agree?
Especially considering most of these are done without you thinking of them. Pretty intuitive body we have isn’t it?
So where do things go wrong? Pregnancy – just the physical load on your body and the anatomy of your pelvic floor is enough to cause issues. Worse if you’re not strong to start with. Labour – 4 times more likely to have pelvic floor dysfunction if you have forceps or vacuum used during labour. Also add in just the generic trauma associated with labour to this area and the muscles take time to recover and get started again. Genetically – your pelvic floor consists of muscles and connective tissue based on type I & III collagen fibres which also has a genetical link so some people are more prone to weakness in their pelvic floor without any other contributing factor. (Hence why I love collagen support – read more on collagen ) Weight training – heavy prolonged weight training without the appropriate engaging of your pelvic floor or correct technique for your pelvis puts you at a higher risk of having pelvic floor dysfunction. Coughing – prolonged coughing can increase the pressure load acting downwards on the pelvic floor muscles, if the muscles can’t sustain it with strength or active engagement when coughing issues can occur. Bowel Straining – As above with the pressure pushing down on the muscles, they sometimes don’t cope. Especially if this has been chronic constipation or straining. Alcohol, caffeine & dehydration – they can make your urine more acidic which can make you need to urinate more frequently which can change the way the bladder works and how it interacts with the pelvic floor. (read more on bladder) Pain – pelvic pain, back pain, endometriosis etc can make these muscles switch off or slow down like they aren’t quite getting the message from the brain. Not to mention to trauma of birth within the pelvis.
How does it feel when your pelvic floor muscles aren’t working properly?
More frequent urination
Urinating through the night
Feeling of not being able to hold on to your urine (don’t want to jump or run)
Lack of sensation during sex
Pain with sex
Feeling like everything is falling out down below (heavy feeling)
Feeling your stomach bulging out when you get up of the chair
Lack of pelvis stability (wobbly or not quite working right when you exercise)
How do you fix a pelvic floor problem? First of all, you need to know where your pelvic floor is…
Then get started! No matter where you are on your journey we have a program for you – see the button below for more info.
It’s shaped like a hammock or a half moon running between your pubic bone at the front and your tailbone at the back around in a loop so when the muscles contract they shorten and close off the area.Obviously there is a lot of structures here from ligaments, bones, blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue but the muscles of the deep pelvic floor are:
Pubococcygeus (PC muscle)
Puborectalis – the muscles runs between the outer layer and the deep layer so it’s more like a middle layer but acts like a constrictor as an outer muscle does.
These make up your Pelvic Floor Muscles (Levator Ani)
Do we always need to do pelvic floor exercises? Simple answer is yes. But think of it like this, do you always need to eat well to feel good? Or put petrol in your car for it to work? Do you want your muscles to be functioning well when you’re into your 80’s and live a great life to exercise and move about like you want to? It’s also best to have a pelvic floor exercise program that targets your muscles specifically so you can feel what it feels like to you when your pelvic floor muscles are working well. Everyone is different and everyone will feel it differently. Then you can add more functional movements so your body learns to use these muscles again without you thinking about it. Like our programs at PPF!
So what can you do? Well for starters take this pelvic floor quiz so you have an idea of how strong you are! Click on the button below! Then get started! No matter where you are on your
Rebecca Barr has recently joined our team at Perfect Pelvic Floor as our guest blogger. She has been a Physiotherapist for over 10 years with years of experience in pelvic floor retraining and incontinence. Here is her beautiful birth story and I just love her beautiful baby girls name Emmison.
After seeing those two lines appear, I knew I had to do another test just to make sure. This time the digital pregnancy stick which told me I was 1 – 2 weeks pregnant!
I had feelings of excitement and elation, which quickly turned to slightly frightened and nervous about the long nine months ahead. I was healthy and fit, what could possibly go wrong?! After the initial nerves, I did sail through most of my pregnancy without a worry. Even my obstetrician made a comment asking if I had done this before!! He had never seen a first time mum so relaxed. Each appointment he would ultrasound scan me and say yes baby is perfect, and measuring well.
At 37 weeks when I went in for another routine check, the obstetrician wasn’t so quick to say what I had been hearing from him at every other appointment. Instead he said he would like me to have a different scan to measure size and weight more accurately. Off I went to have this scan and returned to him telling me I had low amniotic fluid levels. Not too low to have anything done right away, but low enough to be closely monitored to ensure my baby was still growing.
Over the next two weeks I was a lot more aware of my precious little bubs movements. There used to be a lot of kicks when I would drink a cold glass of water, and as soon as I would get into bed to relax after a long day on my feet, I would usually feel the summersaults inside me. This had certainly started to reduce and I was quite anxious about what bub was doing in there!! The hospital were fantastic when I rang to say I felt there was reduced movement. I was told I could go in as much as I want and have a CTG whenever I felt I needed reassurance. A CTG is a Cardiotocography which monitors both the foetal heart rate and the contractions of the uterus.
My obstetrician decided at 39 weeks that I would be induced, which was a relief to be honest, as everyday I felt like I was overanalysing my baby’s movements or lack there of!
So the induction day came around quickly and it was lucky I was super organised and had my bags packed ready to go! My husband and I went in to hospital and I was first given the gel which helps to bring on contractions and soften the cervix. My waters would then be broken the next morning if nothing happened spontaneously. Overnight I felt mild contractions at no regular intervals, surprisingly I did get a good nights sleep! The midwives were in getting me up early and took me around to the birthing suite where I was to have my waters broken and then get comfortable for a long day ahead of me.
Once my waters were broken the contractions started almost immediately. What I thought were contractions overnight were measly little cramps, this was the real deal! I was able to walk around and there was a fitball in the room which I could use to hug and lean forwards onto during the strong contractions. My husband was very supportive and was following me around the room helping to massage my back but it got to the point where nothing I or he could do would help the intense pain! I then opted for an epidural and alas, I was able to function again!!
Having an epidural was great, I could lie down and relax after all those exhausting contractions. It did however prolong the active labour, although the obstetrician was in regularly checking my progress. I got to 8cm dilation when the obstetrician said my baby had turned posterior. Bummer! I was so close. He organised a theatre room and said we could try turning baby with forceps or vacuum. I was not keen on either of these methods as I had done my research and knew particularly forceps was quite damaging to my baby and my pelvic floor muscles. I had discussed this with the obstetrician during a previous appointment and he knew I did not want this method in my birthing plan. So I then consented to an emergency caesarean.
Within 10 minutes I was down being prepped in the theatre room. I could see on the monitor that baby’s heart rate was dropping, however all the staff seemed so relaxed and positive for me. The caesarean section was the quickest part of the whole experience, I just remember seeing my beautiful baby girl passed over the drape so that I could cuddle her straight away. My husband then cut her umbilical cord and seeing her being held in his arms I knew we had unconditional love for her.
Rebecca Bar has been a Physiotherapist for over 10 years and has post graduate qualifications in Women’s & Men’s Health and lives in Victoria Australia. She has a keen interest in helping people improve their quality of life and loves spending her time playing tennis, hanging out by the beach and spending time with her beautiful daughter.
When talking about your pelvic floor muscles what are the essentials you need to know? These small and sometimes seemingly insignificant muscles do a whole lot that you probably don’t even know about and wouldn’t even realise.
Reality is you can thank these muscles for pleasure and avoiding embarrassment!These important muscles form a sling like support system at the base of your pelvis. They work on some level without you even knowing it which is why sometimes they stop working as well as they should. Hence we need as strengthening program to get the working well but also learn to switch them off when needed. Here are some must know Pelvic Floor facts:
The pelvic floor muscles are made up of Pubococcygeus, Iliococcygeus, Coccygeus & Puborectalis. They sound really long and complicated but make up our superficial and deep layers of the muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises are the same as “doing your Kegels” ( kegels is just the American term. You have no idea how many times i’m asked this)
When pelvic floor muscles are tightened or contracted you get a closing and a lifting sensation of the vaginal walls.
They are important to us throughout our whole life especially as a woman. During pregnancy, the post partum period and onwards.
The muscles play a role in starting and stopping the flow of urine based on a contraction of the detrusor muscles. For more see our bladder blog
Men have pelvic floor muscles too. Surprise, surprise They are important for avoiding the post urinating drip. They can also have issues when the prostate becomes enlarged and presses on the nerves innovating the pelvic floor muscles.
They provide support your pelvic organs from below. Vital for any kind of exercise especially jumping & running. Also anything that causes an increase in intra abdominal pressure Eg coughing, sneezing & laughing.
They play a role with sexual sensation. The pelvic floor muscles help the clitoris become enlarged with contraction and can increase the sensation of an orgasm when contracted at the same time.
Assist in baby delivery. The pelvic floor muscles help guide the baby’s head into the birthing canal when the time is ready.
They are just like any other muscles in the body. They have blood flow, you can strengthen them, relax them and they can become tight and cause other issues.
Slow twitch and fast twitch fibres. Which work like any other muscles, slow to perform endurance type activities and fast to stop the flow of urine quickly.
Pain and swelling can inhibit your muscle control. The same as a lot of muscles in the body when we have pain and swelling it can interfere with the function of your muscles.
So many reasons to be thankful for these muscles! And if you don’t think you know how to activate them or wondering how strong you are? Take our Pelvic Floor Quiz below and find out.
As a new mum, you generally forget about yourself and look after everyone else. Hands down it’s about survival. However, I’m here to remind you the 1st 8 weeks are by far the best time for your body to recover! Research has shown the best recovery gains in your stomach muscle separation and function are within the 1st 8 weeks. Don’t freak out, there are very easy and gentle exercises that you can do at home within this time frame, none of which put your body at risk. Read on for 5 easy things to do:
1. Work on your pelvic floor from day one! This is so vital and important. Make sure your pelvic floor muscles are working, strong and able to hold everything in. You can start activating your pelvic floor muscles 24 hours after giving birth, regardless of the way you gave birth. Remember you may not be able to feel much happening down there and it may hurt. Keep going slowly and start to connect the pathway from your brain to your muscles by trying daily.
2. Have your abdominal separation checked and go slow. Don’t even think about an abdominal crunch until your separation has been checked multiple times by health professionals and you feel strong within your pelvic floor. You have a window of 8 weeks post baby to really work on getting your separation as close together as it will go. See someone early and start gentle exercises early.
3. Start gentle lower tummy exercises. Transversus abdominis especially, this is a great muscle providing lower back, pelvis and stomach support. Start gently by lying on your back and trying to slowing draw your belly button to your spine without tilting/moving your bottom/pelvis or spine. This is a great one to help activate those deeper muscles to help with your abdominal separation. If you have a separation add gentle compressions with your hands to close the muscles together.
4. If you are keen to get back into running, surfing or more high impact exercise build up to it once your pelvic floor and deep stomach muscles are strong. You need to start by by building a base and this can be done with general walking. Move onto pilates, yoga and more dynamic exercises as you feel stronger, again ensuring your pelvic floor is working during your other exercises. Your hormones are still changing which means your muscles can’t possible be at their maximum strength until 3 months post baby so don’t even think about running or any high impact exercise before this time.
5. I’m all for women getting back into exercise and sport and reaching some kick arse goals but that takes time. This is the time to focus on strength, not weight loss or pre baby body etc. There is no such thing! Your body has gone through something amazing and is like nothing else you will ever go through. You can’t possible expect your body to be like it was. That’s way too much pressure on yourself. Relax, be kind to yourself and take away the pressure. Aim for strength and posture. The weight loss will come later. I have seen some clients feel good and think their pelvic floor is strong and go back to the gym at 6 weeks post partum and end up with a prolapse. The inside takes time to recover and heal. Focus on healthy choices and gentle movement. My general rule is no running until you can hold your pelvic floor on for 10 full breaths while walking and even then not before 3 months post partum.
Hot tip: TAKE YOUR TIME! Your body needs nutrients to support you and your baby. Be healthy, eat good nutritious food and go slow getting back into exercise. Remember it can take a year to recover from pregnancy and labour. Be patient and kind to yourself, you’re a mum now.
There is help! Join our new mum recovery program and get all the exercises you need for your 1st 12 weeks.
10 exercises/week that are super gentle and don’t take up much of your precious time.