The hardest part about getting into shape after a baby is knowing where to start. I’ve had so many women tell me they don’t exercise for months after having a baby because they know it’s important to give your body time to heal and they don’t know which exercises will aide in that healing process vs which ones will cause damage.
Failing to use the proper exercises after a baby can weaken your pelvic floor, split your abdominal muscles, and cause a lot more unnecessary damage that will make it several times harder to rebuild your post baby body.
To avoid complications like this, the best place to start is by strengthening your pelvic floor.
Why do You Need Pelvic Floor Exercises
As you go throughout your pregnancy, the increasing weight of your baby puts quite a bit of additional pressure on your pelvic muscles.
If they aren’t strong enough to withstand that pressure, it’s not uncommon for it to lead to incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse during your final trimester or after your baby is born.
If you think that these exercises are only for women who had a natural birth, that’s just not true.
I’d argue that it’s just as important, if not more so, to start with gentle exercises that target your pelvic floor after a c section.
If you’ve had a c section, you might find that the connection you used to have with your abdominal muscles is gone. Without the proper exercises, it won’t be reestablished and can lead to the c section pooch many of us moms dread.
In strengthening your pelvic floor, you’ll also strengthen your inner abdominals (the transverse abdominis) and you’ll give your body the core foundation strength it needs to build up every other part of your body.
What do Pelvic Floor Exercises do For You
I think you’ll actually be surprised when you see just how much pelvic floor exercises can do for you. They do all of the following and more:
- Reduce Incontinence
- Improve Bladder/Bowel Control
- Speed up Recovery after Having a Baby (Natural & C Section)
- Decrease the Risk of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
- Strengthens Your Inner Abdominals
- Help Heal Diastasis Recti
- Increase Orgasmic Potential and Sexual Sensation
On the other hand, failing to strengthen your pelvic floor after a baby can lead to the opposite results.
You’ll have more incontinence, a higher chance of pelvic organ prolapse, and weakened inner abdominals that can lead to diastasis recti. This is a condition in which your abdominals muscles split down the middle leaving a gap that is several finger widths wide.
With that said, let’s look at some of the best pelvic floor exercises you can start with after your baby is born.
What Are the Best Pelvic Floor Exercises
When my first son was born, my mother told me to make sure I did my pelvic floor exercises every day. I asked her what those were and she answered with a single word…kegels.
I’d never heard of kegels before but, she explained them to me and told me it was very important to do them. I asked what else I could do and she said walk.
Kegels and walking is great, but it doesn’t give you a whole lot of options when it comes to pelvic floor exercises.
As I had my next two sons, I took note of which exercises helped strengthen my pelvic floor and here are of my favorite pelvic floor exercises.
As you perform these exercises don’t forget to ENGAGE YOUR PELVIC FLOOR. Every single one of them can be done without that engagement but, you won’t be getting the benefits you’re seeking without it. You’ll just be going through the motions.
As your pelvic floor get’s stronger, most of these exercises have additional techniques/tools you can use to increase resistance and further strengthen your pelvic floor.
These aren’t the only pelvic floor exercises but you do need to know how to do them before you can do any others. Kegels help you to identify the proper muscles to engage when performing any pelvic floor exercises.
- These can be done while standing, sitting, or lying down.
- Start with identifying the muscles that are used to stop urination midstream. (Don’t actually do them while you’re using the bathroom because doing so can cause infections as well as harm to your bladder.)
- Once you’ve identified the proper muscles, you perform kegels by tightening these muscles for 5-10 seconds then releasing them. Rest for 5 seconds then repeat.
- Work towards contracting these muscles for 30-60 seconds at a time while breathing normally.
- As you perform any other pelvic floor exercises, engage your pelvic floor in the same way.
- Lie on either side with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle from your hips. Place the hand on the floor
underneath your head and the other on your hip that is going towards the ceiling.
- Take in a deep breath and, as you exhale slowly, pull in your lower abdominals towards your spine.
- At the same time, raise the knee on top as high as you can while your heels are still touching.
- Hold this position for 5-10 seconds with your pelvic floor engaged then release.
- After a couple repetitions, move onto your other side and repeat.
- A great addition to this, once you’ve built up a little, is to use a resistance band loop around your knees to add more resistance while raising your knee.
Note: A lot of people show these exercises performed with the angle between your hips and knees greater than 90 degrees like in the picture here, but I’ve found that it targets my pelvic floor much better when my knees go out in a 90 degree angle from my hips and my feet are slightly bent back like in this picture.
- Lie on your back in the starting position for a crunch with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent up as shown here in this picture.
- Place your hands flat on the floor and take a deep breath in.
- As you exhale slowly, raise your butt and hips off the floor as you pull your stomach in towards your spine as much much as you can.
- Don’t forget to engage your pelvic floor as well.
- Hold this position for 10-20 seconds then lower yourself back to the floor and repeat.
- A great addition to this is to place a small exercise ball in between your legs and, while your butt and hips are raised, give it a couple squeezes before lowering yourself back to the floor.
- Another variation is to do a single leg glute bridge where one leg is raised in the air while the other holds up your butt and hips.
- Lie on your back in the same starting position as a crunch and the glute bridge listed above.
- Take a deep breath in and slowly exhale.
- As you exhale, engage your pelvic muscles and pull your stomach up and in towards your spine as much as you can. At the same time, slide one heel out until that leg is straight.
- Bring that leg back in and repeat with the other leg for several repetitions.
- A great addition to this, once you’ve built up, is to add a resistance band that you hold in both hands and push the center out with the heel your sliding. Be careful that the band doesn’t snap back.
Pelvic Wall Sit
- Stand with your back against the wall and your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a deep breath in and, as you exhale, lower yourself into a 90 degree squat, engage your pelvic floor muscles and pull your stomach in and upwards towards your spine as much as you can.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds then scoot back up the wall to rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this several times and work towards building up to 60 seconds at a time.
- A great addition to this is to add a small exercise ball in between your legs as you’re squatting and use your legs to squeeze the ball for 5-10 seconds at a time. This further engages your pelvic floor muscles.
Squats are excellent exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and there are dozens of variations. Some of my favorites
are standard squats, plie squats, and sumo squats. To start with, you shouldn’t use weights.
- Do 5-10 squats at at a time then rest. Make sure your pelvic floor is engaged each time you squat.
- Change it up a little and go down for 3 seconds then take 6 to come back up and vice versa.
- These can be performed in a sitting, standing, or while lying down.
- Take in a deep breath and slowly exhale.
- As you exhale, focus on pulling your belly button up and inwards towards your spine as much as possible.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds and release.
- Rest for 10 seconds and repeat for several repetitions.
- Start out on your hands and knees.
- Raise one arm straight out into the air and raise the opposite leg straight out as well.
- Engage your pelvic muscles as you hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
- Bring both back to the floor and repeat with the other arm and leg.
Once you’ve been using these pelvic floor exercises for a couple weeks along with walking 4-5 times a week, you should be ready for exercises that have a higher impact.
Plyometric exercises like jumping jacks, jumping rope, running, and sprinting can really help strengthen your pelvic floor if it has the foundation it needs and you’ve given yourself enough time to recover.
If these exercises are performed before your body is ready, they’ll only weaken your pelvic floor.
Be careful and listen to your body. Don’t try to rush anything and give your body the time it needs to recover. This really is the fastest way to get your body back after a baby.
Thank you for reading! What do you think of these pelvic floor exercises? Do you have others that you enjoy? Let me know by leaving a comment below!