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

Pelvic floor exercises are crucial for postpartum recovery.

This post will cover the 5 best exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, why they’re important, and answers to common questions.

best-pelvic-floor-exercise-postpartum


Why pelvic floor exercises are essential postpartum

  • Pregnancy and childbirth can weaken pelvic floor muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor can lead to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse
  • Pelvic floor exercises can prevent and treat these conditions

Conditions prevented by pelvic floor exercises

Urinary Incontinence

  • Definition and types

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!

  • Prevalence in postpartum women

This is far more common than you’d think.

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

urinary-incontinence-postpartum
  • How pelvic floor exercises can help

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.

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) or surgery.

5 best pelvic floor exercises

1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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.


Tips For incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your routine

  • Set reminders on your phone
  • Do exercises at the same time each day (e.g., after showering)
  • Incorporate exercises into daily activities (e.g., while watching TV)
  • Use visual cues (e.g., sticky notes) as reminders

importance of bowel health for pelvic floor

Constipation can worsen pelvic floor dysfunction

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

Tips for preventing constipation

The best way to prevent constipation 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!

frequently asked questions

Do I Need To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises If I Had A C Section?

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!

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.

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.

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!


Final Thoughts

  • Pelvic floor exercises are safe and effective for preventing and treating postpartum pelvic floor issues
  • Consistency is key – make pelvic floor exercises a part of your daily routine
  • Don’t hesitate to seek help from a pelvic floor physical therapist if needed
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Related Pelvic Floor Posts


Get Four Free Workouts To Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor & Heal Your Mommy Tummy!


brittany-robles

Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Brittany Robles is a full-time OBGYN physician, a NASM certified trainer, and a prenatal and postnatal fitness specialist. She holds a Master 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.