The Best Pelvic Floor Exercises You Can Do Postpartum [Free PDF]

Were you told that you have a weak pelvic floor after giving birth?

This post will go over the 5 best pelvic floor exercises you should do postpartum.

You’ll also learn why it’s so important that you do these exercises as early and as often as you can, after your delivery.

Keep reading.

best-pelvic-floor-exercise-postpartum

Disclaimer

***READ FIRST***

Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Ok, moving on.



The 5 Best Pelvic Floor Exercises You Can Do Postpartum

First, let’s go over the actual pelvic floor muscle exercises. Below, you will find a picture of each exercise and learn how to do them.

Kegels

By now, I’m sure that you’ve heard about kegels. The kegel exercise is the most important exercise in strengthening your pelvic floor.

Kegel-pregnancy-exercise

To do it:

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  • From here, squeeze all the muscles in your pelvis as if you are trying to prevent yourself from pooping or peeing.
  • It is important that you do not squeeze other muscles like your butt or quad muscles. Focus on just the muscles in the pelvis.
  • Hold each contraction for 5-10 seconds, and then relax.

Do 10 repetitions, and do this 3 times a day.

ExecutionNumber of setsNumber of reps
Squeeze all the muscles in your pelvis as if you’re trying to not go to the bathroom3 times throughout the day10 repetitions of 5-10 second holds

Squats

The squat is probably the number one exercise of all time.

It is important in strengthening a lot of the muscles in your lower body, as well as the muscles of your pelvis.

squat

To do it:

  • Stand with your feet at least shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointed out about 30 degrees.
  • Keeping your back flat and your heels on the floor, begin squatting down.
  • Bend at your hips and the knees at the same time.
  • Only go as low as you comfortably can.
  • Come back up by squeezing your glute muscles at the top.

Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions every single day.

If you’d like to make the squat more difficult, add one of the Postpartum Trainer’s Glute Resistance Bands around your knees.

ExecutionNumber of setsNumber of reps
Simultaneously bend at the hip and
knees, while keeping your back straight and heels flat. Stand back up by
squeezing your glutes
3 sets10 repetitions

Bridge

The bridge is another great low impact exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor.

It is simple to perform and super effective for developing your glute and hamstring muscles too.

glute-bridge

To do it:

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  • Keep your feet hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward.
  • From here, lift your hips straight up by squeezing your glute muscles as hard as you can.
  • At the top of the exercise, your spine should be straight.
  • Avoid arching your low back.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds and come back down.

Do 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions every day.

To make the glute bridge more difficult, add one of the Postpartum Trainer’s Glute Resistance Bands around your knees.

ExecutionNumber of setsNumber of reps
Lay on your back with your knees bent, and lift your hips up by
squeezing your glutes hard
3 sets5-10 repetitions
of 5 second holds

Posterior Pelvic Tilts

The next two exercises don’t strengthen the pelvic floor directly, but they are super important in rebuilding your core muscles.

They both work to strengthen the transverse abdominis muscles. These muscles are located on your sides, under your rib cage. Strengthening them will also help with diastasis recti, improve your core stability, and your pelvic floor control. (By the way, here’s how to check and see if you have diastasis recti.)

Additionally, I have written an entire article on 100 exercises you could perform to fix diastasis recti, as well as what you need to know if you developed diastasis recti after a c-section.

posterior-pelvic-tilt

To do it:

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent.
  • There should be a natural arch in your low back, leaving a little space between your back and the floor.
  • The goal of this exercise is to flatten out your low back completely against the floor.
  • Do this by drawing your abdomen in, and concentrating on bringing your belly button towards the floor.
  • Your pelvis should naturally tilt backward or posteriorly.
  • Keep the rest of your body motionless. Only your pelvis and abdomen should move during this exercise.
  • If your low back is not flat on the ground, you aren’t doing it correctly.
  • Next, I want you to squeeze your pelvic muscles in this position. You are combining a posterior pelvic tilt with a kegel exercise.
  • Hold this position for a 5 count and release.

Do 10 repetitions, and do this 3 times a day.

ExecutionNumber of sets Number of reps
Lay on your back with your knees
bent, and flatten out the natural curve in your low back so that it is flush against the ground.
3 times throughout the day10 repetitions of 5 second holds

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The last exercise is diaphragmatic breathing.

This exercise helps to retrain your diaphragm muscle in the postpartum period. In doing so, you will improve your breathing and core activation.

deep-breathing

To do it:

  • Sit comfortably or lie on your back. (This exercise can be performed in both positions)
  • Begin by taking a big breath, and focus on expanding your belly as much as you can
  • Do not move your chest or shrug your shoulders while you inhale
  • Hold this breath for 3-5 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth
  • Exhale for at least 5 seconds.
  • When all of the air is out, continue trying to exhale until you can’t anymore. This will activate your core muscles.
  • At the peak of your exhale, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles together to do a kegel at the same time.

Do this 10 times, 3 times a day.

ExecutionNumber of
sets
Number of reps
Take a deep breath by
expanding your belly, not
your chest. Hold the breath 3-5 seconds, and exhale for 5 seconds.
3 times throughout the day10 repetitions
deep-diaphragmatic-breathing-postpartum

Okay, those are the 5 best pelvic floor exercises you should do postpartum.

Now let’s go over a few other questions regarding the pelvic floor.

Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises PDF For New Moms

By the way, here is a free PDF that will help you get started strengthening your pelvic floor and other key muscle groups that need training in the postpartum!



What Is The Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is a group of supporting muscles that create a “hammock” or a “sling” around your bladder, uterus, and rectum.

The muscles that make up the pelvic floor are:

  1. The Levator Ani muscle
    1. The puborectalis muscle
    2. The iliococcygeus muscle
    3. The pubococcygeus muscle
  2. The coccygeus muscle

Why Does Your Pelvic Floor Get Weak Postpartum?

It is thought that the pelvic floor gets weak from denervation. This means that the nerves that activate these muscles stop working appropriately.

In the most basic sense, muscles do two things.

Contract and relax.

If the nerves that are in control of these actions stop working, you won’t be able to contract or relax these muscles.

This can happen as a result of trauma to the area, or even childbirth.

Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch all of the muscles of the pelvic floor which can denervate these important muscle groups.

If you had a forceps or a vacuum delivery, the risk may be increased further.

Do You Need To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?

Yes, you need to do pelvic floor exercises if you have given birth.

Why?

Because pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to two important conditions that can affect your quality of life.

Strengthening the muscles of your pelvic floor can help treat and prevent these conditions.

The two most common conditions are:

Urinary Incontinence:

Urinary incontinence is the involuntary leakage of urine. In other words, you leak urine without any control.

There are three types of urinary incontinence, stress, urge, and overflow. You are more likely to experience stress incontinence following childbirth.

postpartum-incontinence

Stress incontinence is when you leak urine following increased pressure in your abdomen.

This means that coughing, sneezing, and even laughing can cause you to leak urine!

This is far more common than you’d think.

Data shows that anywhere from 5-35% of women can experience symptoms of incontinence.

Pelvic floor exercise (along with pelvic physical therapy) is the first-line treatment for bladder control and stress urinary incontinence.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse:

Pelvic organ prolapse is the second most dreaded complication of a weakened pelvic floor.

This is when your pelvic organs literally protrude out of your vagina.

This can present with a bulge, and the inability to urinate or defecate (poop) appropriately.

There are three main types of prolapse.

  1. Cystocele: Your bladder protrudes into and sometimes out of your vagina
  2. Rectocele: Your rectum protrudes into and sometimes out of your vagina
  3. Uterine Prolapse: Your uterus protrudes into and sometimes out of your vagina

Pelvic floor exercises will no longer be effective for these conditions.

Treatment includes pessaries (devices that go into the vagina to support the prolapsing organ) and surgery.

Do I Need To Do These Even If I Had A Cesarean?

After a C-section, you are less likely to get urinary incontinence compared to vaginal delivery. However, you are still at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, regardless of the type of delivery you had.

The muscles of the pelvic floor are still stretched from the pregnancy, even if you don’t have a vaginal delivery.

Also, pregnancy is only one risk factor.

There are no downsides to having stronger pelvic muscles and you can still benefit even if you are years postpartum!

What Happens If You Don’t Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?

If you don’t do pelvic floor exercises, your pelvic muscles will remain weak and you will be at increased risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction in the future.

Symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction include urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse.

When Should I Start Pelvic Floor Exercises After Birth?

You can do pelvic floor exercises a few days after giving birth.

There are zero risks in performing kegel exercises, posterior pelvic tilts, and deep diaphragmatic breathing 1-2 days after delivery.

You may need to wait a bit longer to do squats.

For more information on performing squats in the postpartum period, you could check out: Can I do squats postpartum?

How Many Times A Day Should I Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?

You should do pelvic floor exercises at least once per day and up to three times per day for best results.

Does Squatting Strengthen The Pelvic Floor?

Yes, the squat is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles of the glutes, quadriceps, adductors, and pelvic floor. The key is to actively engage the pelvic floor muscles as you are exhaling and ascending out of the bottom.

That is why I included it as one of the 5 best pelvic floor exercises.

How Long Does The Pelvic Floor Take To Heal?

It can take 6-12 weeks to see significant improvement in the strength of any muscles.

That’s why it’s important to stay consistent and incorporate them as part of your daily routine.

Do your pelvic floor exercises at least 4-5x a week immediately after delivery for a minimum of 6 weeks.

How Do I Remember To Do My Pelvic Floor Exercises?

The key to sticking to any exercise program is to have a plan. If you rely on just “winging it,” you will be less likely to do your exercises consistently.

Make a plan of when, where, and how you are going to do your pelvic floor exercises.

Set out a block of time each day that you will devote 5-10 minutes to do them.

This can be:

AS SOON AS YOU WAKE UP
RIGHT AFTER YOU SHOWER
AS SOON AS YOU SIT DOWN TO WATCH TV
DURING A COMMERCIAL BREAK
RIGHT BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP

Create an association in your mind with any of these activities and pelvic floor exercises.

You won’t regret it!

How Do I Know If My Pelvic Floor Has Healed (or is Strong)?

Well, the only way to truly tell if your pelvic floor is strong is if you had symptoms of urine leakage If after doing pelvic floor exercises you notice improvement of incontinence symptoms, then you are on the right track!

Can I Do Pelvic Floor Exercises During My Pregnancy?

Yes! There is no need to wait until after you deliver to start doing pelvic floor exercises.

urinary-incontinence-postpartum

There is no downside to doing these exercises during pregnancy. One large study found that pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy can prevent urinary incontinence after birth.

This other large study came to the same conclusion.

Lastly, Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Your Bowels

I want to end with one last point. Do your best to avoid constipation during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.

Straining to go to the bathroom can further weaken the pelvic floor muscle, worsening the dysfunction.

The best way to prevent this is to eat a diet rich in fiber, and high in fruits and vegetables.

If you’d like a step-by-step nutrition plan to help ensure you are getting all the proper nutrients after having your baby, check out my Postpartum Trainer’s Nutrition Guide.

It also has a section specifically for breastfeeding!

Final Thoughts

Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect up to one-third of women.

We know that pregnancy and childbirth are known risk factors. So if you had a child, you can benefit from pelvic floor exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises can be a safe and effective way to prevent and sometimes treat the effects of a weak pelvic floor.

So start doing these exercises today!

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brittany-robles

Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness, expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.



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References:

  1. Allen RE, Hosker GL, Smith AR, Warrell DW. Pelvic floor damage and childbirth: a neurophysiological study. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1990 Sep;97(9):770-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.1990.tb02570.x. PMID: 2242361.
  2. Volløyhaug I, Mørkved S, Salvesen Ø, Salvesen KÅ. Forceps delivery is associated with increased risk of pelvic organ prolapse and muscle trauma: a cross-sectional study 16-24 years after first delivery. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Oct;46(4):487-95. doi: 10.1002/uog.14891. Epub 2015 Aug 25. PMID: 25920322.
  3. Thom DH, Rortveit G. Prevalence of postpartum urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2010 Dec;89(12):1511-22. doi: 10.3109/00016349.2010.526188. Epub 2010 Nov 5. PMID: 21050146.
  4. Rortveit G, Daltveit AK, Hannestad YS, Hunskaar S; Norwegian EPINCONT Study. Urinary incontinence after vaginal delivery or cesarean section. N Engl J Med. 2003 Mar 6;348(10):900-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa021788. PMID: 12621134.
  5. Woodley SJ, Boyle R, Cody JD, Mørkved S, Hay-Smith EJC. Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017;12(12):CD007471. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007471.pub3
  6. Mørkved S, Bø K. Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Feb;48(4):299-310. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091758. Epub 2013 Jan 30. PMID: 23365417.

2 thoughts on “The Best Pelvic Floor Exercises You Can Do Postpartum [Free PDF]”

    1. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      Unfortunately at the moment, I do not have any exercises for prolapse.

Comments are closed.