Becoming a new mum brings immense joy, but also new challenges. Your body has undergone enormous changes during pregnancy and childbirth, and recovery takes time. One area that deserves special attention is the pelvic floor. Strengthening these important muscles can help you heal faster, regain bladder control, improve intimacy, and prevent long-term issues like prolapse. But where do you start? This guide will walk you through 5 simple yet effective pelvic floor exercises tailored for postpartum women.
Let’s get started on the journey toward pelvic floor fitness! Paying attention to this often-overlooked area of core muscles can make a world of difference as you heal and adjust to life with your new baby.
Understanding the Pelvic Floor
Anatomy of the Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that support the bladder, uterus, and bowel. Located between the pubic bone and tailbone, these muscles form a hammock-like sling. Many are surprised to learn that both men and women have a pelvic floor! In women, it has the vital job of holding up the pelvic organs and providing strength and stability.
The major pelvic floor muscles include the levator ani, coccygeus, pubococcygeus, and iliococcygeus. These work together to contract and relax as needed for bladder and bowel control. They also stabilize and support the pelvis during movement and childbirth. Strong pelvic floor muscles are crucial for avoiding issues like incontinence and prolapse.
Why Pelvic Floor Health Matters
After pregnancy and delivery, the pelvic floor needs special attention. Vaginal births, episiotomies, and C-sections can overstretch or damage these muscles. It’s common to experience urinary leakage when coughing or sneezing as the pelvic floor heals. Starting targeted exercises, once signed off by a doctor, can help new mums regain strength and function. Continuing them long-term preserves support and prevents problems down the road. Pelvic floor self-care should be a priority for every new mother.
Preparing for Pelvic Floor Exercises
When to Start
Before diving into these postpartum pelvic floor exercises, it’s important to lay the groundwork for a safe and effective routine. Healing and recovery look different for every new mum, so discuss the timeline with your healthcare provider. Generally, you can begin gentle exercises within days of giving birth, progressively increasing intensity over time. Have your doctor evaluate any pelvic floor damage and make exercise recommendations.
To perform these moves comfortably, you’ll just need an exercise mat, loose clothing, and a private space to focus. Opt for breathable cotton underwear versus synthetics.
Never strain or force your pelvic floor muscles—slow and steady is the name of the game. Stop immediately if you feel sharp pain. Some soreness is normal at first, but pain could indicate injury needing prompt medical attention. Listen to your body and consult a women’s health physical therapist if problems persist. With your doctor’s okay, you’ll be ready to start rebuilding pelvic floor fitness.
5 Helpful Pelvic Floor Exercises
Kegels target the pelvic floor directly. To do them, squeeze your pelvic muscles as if trying to stop urine flow. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then fully relax for 3-5 seconds. Start with 5 reps, working up to 10-15 over time. Do these in sets throughout the day. Try linking kegels to daily tasks like brushing your teeth or cooking. Consistent practice is key.
Squats engage the core and pelvic floor simultaneously. Stand with feet hip-width apart, engage abdominals, and sit back and down like sitting in a chair. Avoid letting knees go past your toes. Descend until thighs are parallel to the floor if possible. Hold for 5 counts, then press through heels to return to standing. Start with 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps.
Bridge exercises strengthen the glutes and pelvic floor in tandem. Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Press into heels to raise hips off floor, creating a straight line from knees to shoulders. Squeeze glutes and engage pelvic floor muscles. Hold for 5 counts, lower down with control. Build to 10-15 reps in 2-3 sets. Modify by keeping one foot down if needed.
Bird-dog engages the core, back, and pelvic floor. Start on hands and knees. Raise one arm forward and the opposite leg back, keeping them parallel. Draw the navel in and brace the pelvic floor. Hold for 5 counts, relax and switch sides. Do 5-10 reps per side in 2-3 sets. Keep your back flat throughout the move.
Wall sits strengthen the quadriceps while also activating the pelvic floor. Lean back against a wall with feet hip-width apart. Keep your back and hips against the wall as you bend your knees and “sit” against the wall. Hold for 10-30 seconds, relax and repeat for 2-3 sets. Engage the pelvic floor while holding the sit position.
Tips for Success
Consistency is Key
Performing pelvic floor exercises takes dedication, especially when caring for a new baby. But with some strategies, you can make them a consistent habit. Establish a daily routine that fits your schedule. Many find first thing in the morning works best. Track your reps and progress which provides motivation. Over time, you’ll notice improvements in strength, control, and function.
Combining with Other Exercises
It’s also helpful to incorporate pelvic floor activation into other postpartum exercises. When doing full-body strength training routines, yoga, Pilates, or cardio, remember to engage those muscles. Coughing or sneezing is another good time to squeeze the pelvic floor. The more you make consciousness of proper pelvic floor use a habit, the faster you’ll regain fitness. Just be sure to get medical clearance before advancing your workout routine.
Strengthening your pelvic floor should be a top priority after giving birth. The simple yet effective exercises covered in this article will help get those muscles firing properly again. By practicing kegels, squats, bridges, bird-dogs, and wall sits, you can rebuild control and stability from the ground up. Make these moves part of your daily postpartum routine.