A guide to pelvic floor exercises

Pregnancy and birth put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles, so it’s important to exercise them regularly.

Where are my pelvic floor muscles?

Your pelvic floor muscles surround and support all the organs in your pelvis - your womb, bowel and bladder.

If these muscles become weak, you can leak urine when you cough or sneeze. This is called stress incontinence. Exercising the pelvic floor muscles helps to prevent this.

You can start doing pelvic floor exercises before, during and after pregnancy. 

Many people think that pelvic floor exercises are only necessary if you are having a vaginal birth. But having a caesarean section does not protect your pelvic floor from strain. Everyone can benefit from doing pelvic floor exercises.

How to find your pelvic floor muscles

You can find your pelvic floor muscles 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.

Only do this once to help you find the right muscles. It’s not good for your bladder to stop mid-wee and doing it regularly may lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Exercising your pelvic floor muscles

  1. Practise squeezing all the muscles in your bottom at the same time, as if you’re:
    • stopping a poo
    • gripping a tampon in your vagina
    • stopping the flow of wee.
  2. Squeeze and release the muscles quickly 8 times. 
  3. Then do it slowly 8 times, squeezing the muscles for as long as you can before slowly releasing. As you get used to doing the exercises, try to count to 10 before releasing.

Remember to breathe normally as you exercise.

Try to do 3 sets of these exercises every day. To help you remember, you could do them at the same time as something else you do regularly, like waiting for the bus, making a meal or waiting for the kettle to boil.

You might also find it helps to tighten your pelvic floor before you sneeze or cough.

Getting support

Your midwife can explain how to do pelvic floor exercises. They may refer you to a physiotherapist if you’re having problems with your pelvic floor. 

There are also some mobile apps, such as the NHS Squeezy app, to help you remember to do the exercises.

  1.  NHS. What are pelvic floor exercises? www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/what-are-pelvic-floor-exercises/ (Page last reviewed: 14/04/2020. Next review due: 14/04/2023)
  2.  NHS. Exercise in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/exercise/ (Page last reviewed: 20/01/20. Next review due: 20/01/23)
  3.  NICE (2021) Pelvic floor dysfunction: prevention and non-surgical management: NICE guideline 210. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng210/chapter/Recommendations#during-and-after-pregnancy
Review dates
Reviewed: 29 May 2023
Next review: 29 May 2026