Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor is a group of internal muscles that actively supports the bladder, uterus and bowel. Find out how to strengthen these most important muscles during pregnancy.

Pelvic Floor Muscles

The pelvic floor is a group of internal muscles that actively supports the bladder, uterus and bowel.

One of the common effects of childbirth can be an increased loss of bladder control due to weakened pelvic floor muscles. Known as stress incontinence, it is most likely to occur when you laugh, cough, sneeze or exercise. Weak muscles exercised regularly and consistently over a period of time can be strengthened by specific exercises. Pilates, Tai Chi, and yoga are practices that also aid in developing a strong pelvic floor alignment.

Many women report a loss of bladder control after childbirth but are usually too embarrassed to discuss their condition with medical professionals or other women. Often women suffering stress incontinence say they had not realised the importance and relevance of developing pelvic floor muscle control.

Although the following exercises are subtle, they are effective.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises

Exercise One

  1. Sit or lie comfortably with legs wide apart.
  2. Close your eyes and imagine stopping your flow of urine mid-stream.
  3. Squeeze the muscles around your vagina and back passage as strongly as possible and hold tightly for 3 seconds. You should be able to feel the pelvic floor muscles lifting and contracting inside.
  4. Repeat the “squeeze and lift” and hold for 5 seconds. Allow at least a 5 second rest in between each exercise.
  5. Repeat up to 10 times.

Exercise Two

  1. Squeeze and lift the pelvic floor muscles as strongly and as quickly as possible. Do not try to hold, just squeeze and let go.
  2. Allow a three second rest in between each exercise.
  3. Repeat up to 10 times.

Exercise Three

  1. On all fours with your hands directly below your shoulders, relax your stomach allowing everything to ‘hang out’.
  2. Pull your stomach right up and hold, breathing lightly for a few seconds and then release.
  3. Repeat up to 10 times.

Pelvic Floor Problems

Poor pelvic floor muscle control may affect the following functions:

Bladder Function

Many women experience incontinence or "stress incontinence" following childbirth.

  • Normal bladder function is:
  • Passing urine six times a day and once during the night.
  • Passing more than a cupful each time.
  • A continuous and constant urine flow.
  • Abnormal bladder function is:
  • Having to rush to the toilet.
  • Leakage.
  • Strong-smelling urine.
  • Trouble starting the flow of urine.
  • Straining or pushing to pass urine.
  • Pain when passing urine.
  • A urine flow that stops and starts, is weak or a mere trickle.

Bowel Function

If you have any bowel problems you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • Straining to empty the bowels.
  • Feeling as if you haven’t completely emptied your bowels.
  • Having to rush to go to the toilet for fear of having an accident.
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Actually having an accident.

Sexual Intercourse

During intercourse you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Reduced sensation.
  • Bladder or bowel urgency.
  • Loss of urine or faeces.
  • Vaginal dryness or wind.
  • Pain.

Vaginal Abnormalities

Your vagina may also be affected. Symptoms to look for include:

  • A lump inside the vaginal passage.
  • Dragging abdominal or back pain.
  • Difficulty or pain inserting tampons or keeping them in.

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