A guide to pelvic floor exercises
Where are my pelvic floor muscles?
Your pelvic floor muscles surround and support all the organs in your pelvis - your womb, bowels and bladder.
How to find your pelvic floor muscles
You can find out where the pelvic floor muscles are and how you control them next time you go to the toilet. As you wee, try to stop the flow briefly. The muscles you use to do this are your pelvic floor muscles.
Don’t do this more than once, though. It’s not good for your bladder to stop mid-wee and doing it regularly may lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Why pelvic floor exercises are important
During your pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles will loosen due to hormonal changes in your body. This loosening, along with your growing baby pressing on your bladder, may cause you to leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze or exercise.
Doing pelvic floor exercises will strengthen these muscles and help you control any accidents. It will also help you ease your baby out during labour, and recover faster after the birth.
How do I exercise my pelvic floor muscles?
Once you’ve found your pelvic floor muscles, try stopping an imaginary wee rather than a real one. Once you can locate them like this, you can exercise them any time you like by tightening and lifting.
To tighten and lift your pelvic floor muscles, imagine doing the following at the same time:
- squeezing your bottom as if stopping a poo
- squeezing to stop the flow of wee
- squeezing as though you’re gripping a tampon in your vagina.
You can do pelvic floor exercises anywhere you like. Nobody will know what you’re doing - as long as you don’t raise your eyebrows each time you squeeze.
You can exercise on the bus, while you’re on the phone or waiting in the supermarket queue.
Practise at home
Practise these exercises in front of a mirror. Then you’ll know you can do them without making faces before you try them on a crowded bus or at work.
It can be helpful to link your pelvic floor exercises to something you do often, such as waiting for the train or waiting for the kettle to boil.
This will make it easy to remember to do them.
Slow squeeze pelvic floor exercise
This exercise will help support the organs in your pelvis and your growing baby.
You may not be able to hold this squeeze for long at first, but keep building up the time and make sure you always release it slowly.
- Slowly tighten your pelvic floor, lifting the muscles inwards and upwards.
- Continue lifting up through your pelvis and into your tummy.
- Try to hold it for 4 seconds, then release slowly.
- If you find you struggle to hold the squeeze for this long and there’s nothing left to release, try holding it for less time at first and working up to 4 seconds.
- Gradually increase the length of the hold. Make sure you always have some of the squeeze left to release and that you’re able to release slowly at the end of the exercise.
Quick squeeze pelvic floor exercises
This exercise will help make you less likely to wet yourself!
- Tighten and lift your pelvic floor in one quick contraction, squeezing the muscles inwards and upwards.
- Pause before releasing slowly.
- Relax fully at the end.
- Try to perform each repetition with the same speed and strength as the first.
Remember to breathe normally when you’re doing your pelvic floor exercises.
How often should I do my pelvic floor exercises?
Once you get used to doing them, start off with 5 squeezes 5 times a day. Increase this to 10 squeezes 5 times a day if you can. Try to do a mixture of slow and quick squeezes.
- Marques A, Stothers L, Macnab A (2010). The status of pelvic floor muscle training for women. Canadian Urological Association Journal 4 (6): 419–24: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2997838/
- RCOG (2006). Exercise in Pregnancy: Statement No. 4, London, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/statements/statement-no-4.pdf.
- NHS Choices. What are pelvic floor exercises? http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1063.aspx?categoryid=52 (Page last reviewed: 30/04/2017. Next review due: 30/04/2020)
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