5 Exercises to Help Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Post-Baby

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In order to learn how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles after having a baby, it's probably important to understand what your pelvic floor actually does in the first place, right? It's most likely a term you didn't hear too often until postpartum (much like a slew of other vocabulary words!).

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Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that span the base of the pelvis running from the pubic bone to your sit bones and tailbone. Think of them as a hammock or trampoline. These muscles stabilize the base of the pelvis, holding the bladder, bowel, and uterus in place. They help us control when we pee and poop and play a role in our sexual activities too.

"There is a link between orgasm intensity and pelvic floor strength," says Marissa Nelson, LMFT, CST. "In a study conducted, women who were able to experience orgasm with clitoral or vaginal stimulation had the strongest PC muscles."

During pregnancy, as pressure gradually increases on these muscles, they can become really stretched out and ineffective. This is what causes those embarrassing accidental pee leaks. When a woman is giving birth vaginally, the muscles completely stretch so the baby's head can come out. (This can naturally stretch during a C-section as well.)

Following birth, you may have a feeling of your pelvic floor sagging and feeling heavy. Like any muscle that's gone weak, you have to exercise to reactivate it. It's best to be seated, standing, or in any upright position so your intra-abdominal pressure requires the muscles to engage. 

Once you have clearance from your doctor, here are some ways to work toward restoring your pelvic floor muscles -- which ultimately will help prevent urine leakage and improve bladder control, and may even improve your orgasms. Remember, every woman's body is different and it may take some time before you feel any results.

1. Kegel Exercise

"Originally named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the exercise strengthens the pelvic floor by contracting the levator muscles for five seconds and then releasing them for five seconds. There are two different types: front and back. For front kegels, imagine you are trying to stop yourself from peeing. Squeeze, hold, and relax these muscles. Back kegels are done by squeezing the muscles you would try to stop yourself from passing gas. Naturally, you can do these exercises discreetly at anytime." -- Tori Levine, founder of Babies at the Barre

2. Gentle Contractions

"From a seated position, breathe in through your nose, and as you breathe out through pursed lips, gently draw up on the pelvic floor muscles. The sensation should come from the base of the pelvis, closer to the public bone in the front rather than the tailbone at the back, and feel very gentle. You should feel a sense of lengthening of the spine, as you lift your head toward the ceiling and create more space between each vertebrae. To hold the gentle contraction, lift for about five seconds while you continue to breathe in and out as normal. Make sure you keep your upper tummy muscles and buttocks relaxed." -- Laureen Dubeau, MERRITHEW Master Instructor Trainer 

3. Simple Core Exercises

"Exercises like pelvic tilts, bridges, modified planks, lunges, abduction and adduction, and laying leg-raises will help build strength to your pelvic floor and core." -- Sarah Ann Kelly, MomTrainer.com 

4. Deep Squats

"Using body weight only, externally rotate your feet and do 25–50 deep and below-the-knee squats per day. Make sure you actively engage your pelvic floor muscles before you push back into a standing position." -- Makenzie Marzluff, certified personal trainer

5. Pilates

"Pilates exercises are fantastic because they put an emphasis not just on core engagement, but also engaging with the pelvic floor and midline. Pilates exercises work both the fast twitch and slow twitch muscles of the pelvic floor. This is useful because it strengthens not only the endurance of this area (i.e., holding your pee), but also helps the muscles that will kick in quickly (i.e., if you sneeze, you won't pee)! Working the pelvic floor muscles in these many ways helps that area get strengthened with multiple ways that are necessary for the health of our entire pelvic floor." -- Andrea Speir, Pilates trainer and owner of Speir Pilates


If your body can handle it, it's not a bad idea to start some of these exercises (particularly the kegels) while you're pregnant to get a head start! Some experts say that it may even make labor that much more easy. (Yeah, right!) 

 

Image via iStock.com/vgajic

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