Restore Your Core Pelvic Floor Postpartum Exercises for Faster Recovery

Pelvic Floor Postpartum Exercises for Faster Recovery

Restore Your Core Promotion

Pelvic Floor Postpartum Exercises for Faster Recovery

By Lauren Ohayon 06/07/2024

5 Min Read

Have you just had a baby, or are you about to give birth? Read on for pelvic floor exercises that facilitate faster postpartum recovery, enhance overall well-being, and improve long-term pelvic health. 

There are so many things to do after you give birth – some days, just getting dressed can feel like a big accomplishment. So why would you want to spend your precious energy working on your pelvic floor? Your pelvic floor plays a huge role in not only the pregnancy and birth process but also in supporting your whole body as you move through life. Taking time to focus on healing and re-engaging with your pelvic floor will serve you not only in the postpartum period but for the rest of your life. 

During pregnancy, your pelvic floor helps to support the weight of the growing fetus, in addition to its usual function of supporting the other pelvic organs: intestines, bladder, etc. Your pelvic floor is also an essential part of the core and breath system. In a vaginal birth, the pelvic floor has to yield to allow the baby to exit the body; that load is unlike any other load you’ll encounter during daily life, and the effects on the muscles and ligaments of the pelvic floor can be pretty intense: from sneeze pee to pelvic organ prolapse, many women trace their pelvic floor issues to pregnancy. If you had a c-section, your risk of prolapse is lower, but the risk of other pelvic floor disorders is roughly the same because the weight of the pregnancy is still affecting your pelvic floor.

No matter whether you gave birth via C-section or a vaginal birth, you can help support that recovery process by using targeted exercises to start reconnecting with your pelvic floor. These same exercises can also help you begin to feel at home in your body again. While it’s difficult to conduct double-blind, peer-reviewed studies about the effects of exercise in general on perinatal people, exercise has been shown to positively affect maternal mental health, especially as a therapeutic modality for prenatal and postpartum depression.

Pelvic Floor Muscles

Understanding the Postpartum Pelvic Floor

I like to say that you’re never not postpartum. By that, I mean that any pregnancies you’ve experienced continue to be part of how your body feels, much like a sprained ankle continues to be a little bit different from an ankle that has never been injured. Being just as mindful about recovering from pregnancy and birth as you would about an injury just makes sense. 

Taking a few minutes each day to focus on exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor is the kind of rehab that will help you build good exercise habits as you heal. The goal of pelvic floor exercise is to train your pelvic floor and body to be strong and responsive to the variety of loads that life sends its way. A healthy pelvic floor makes elimination easier, makes sex more fun, and doesn’t need constant attention as you move through your day. Longer-term, when you’re in touch with your pelvic floor muscles, you can tell when something’s not right–but if you don’t know what normal for your body is, you’re more likely to miss signs of UTIs, changes due to hormonal shifts, or anything else out of the ordinary.

Pelvic Floor Exercises for Postpartum Recovery

The following are some simple exercises that can get you started with pelvic floor recovery postpartum. You can begin these exercises as your body tells you you’re ready, but make sure you’ve checked in with your doctor before you begin any new exercise program. As always, the information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Candles breath can help you gently engage your core

  • Inhale gently through your nose and allow your ribcage to expand outward three-dimensionally
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth as if you’re blowing out 99 candles on a cake
  • Imagine that your exhale begins at your pubic bone and travels up into the ribcage; your core should gently corset in as you exhale

Instead of Kegels, try this sequence

  • Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor
  • Imagine you have a small object like a grape right at the entrance to your vagina
  • Try to slowly lift the object up towards your belly button for 8 seconds
  • Then lower that object down with control for 8 seconds
  • For more of a challenge, add this exercise and see if your control or experience changes 
  1. Come onto all fours, grab a block or a stack of books, and place it under your right knee 
  2. Keep your spine long, not rounded or arched
  3. Exhale and blow out candles slowly through your mouth, feeling your core reacting and pulling inward
  4. Then raise your left knee off the ground as high as it will go–no side shifting
  5. Then lower it down 
  6. After eight reps, do the exact same thing, but add on lifting your leg open to the side with control and lowering it with control like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant eight times
  7. After both sides, recheck your grape lift and notice whether your control or experience is any different

Bridge Lifts strong glutes support your pelvis and your pelvic floor

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent
  • Press through your feet to lift your pelvis away from the floor 
  • Pause and hold your pelvis up in the air 
  • You may feel your hamstrings and or glutes engage as you move
  • Don’t try to force a big arch in your back; keep your ribs on the floor
  • Don’t clench or squeeze your butt to perform this movement
  • Slowly lower your pelvis back down to the ground 
  • Repeat this exercise several more times

Pelvic Tilts help to reduce tension and restore balance to the pelvic floor muscles 

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent
  • Bolster your head with a folded-up towel or blanket for added comfort
  • Begin to tuck and untuck your pelvis gently, as if you’re bringing your pubic bone towards your nose and then away from your nose
  • Keep tilting your pelvis forward and back until you feel it moving easily
  • Optional: add in some side-to-side tilts: 
  1. Come back to a neutral pelvis
  2. Imagine that you’ve got a clock on your pelvis, with 12:00 and 6:00 at your navel and your pubic bone
  3. Tilt your pelvis side to side, from 9:00 to 3:00
  4. Come back to neutral and tuck and untuck again a few times
  5. Let your movements be gentle and easy

Heel Slides are some of the best postpartum pelvic floor exercises; they train your core and pelvic floor to respond to load

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat
  • You can bolster your head with a small folded-up towel or blanket
  • Inhale, then exhale to blow out candles as you
  • Slide one heel away from you along the floor
  • Draw the heel back in to meet the other leg
  • Repeat 6-8 times on one side
  • Switch sides

Seated Ball Squeeze is another way to practice gentle core & pelvic floor engagement while strengthening your inner thighs

  • Sit on a chair with a Pilates ball between your thighs (a folded-up pillow is a great substitute)
  • Inhale, and then as you exhale, squeeze the ball together with your legs 
  • Do not bear down or push down on your pelvic floor as you squeeze 
  • Release the squeeze
  • Repeat about eight times

Butterfly Stretch feels delicious when you’re spending much of your time sitting and feeding or rocking a baby

  • Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together
  • You might find that sitting on a block or bolster or pillow is more comfortable–let your body weight rest on your sit bones, not your tailbone
  • Let your knees drop toward the floor; relax your hips
  • For a more active version, place your hands on the inside of your knees and press your knees into your hands, resisting the pressure from your hands
  • Do not bear down as you resist; only work as hard as is easy for you
  • Relax your hands and let your knees relax toward the floor again

Side-lying Leg Lifts help wake up your glutes and activate the whole complex of muscles that are part of your pelvic floor

  • Lie on one side on a mat with your arm under your head or with your head propped on your elbow; your opposite hand can be used for support or rest on your top hip
  • Your legs should be straight
  • Exhale to blow out candles as you raise your top leg
  • Only lift high enough that you feel the muscles in the side of your butt working, keep your pelvis steady as you lift the leg
  • Slowly lower down and repeat 8-10 times on each side
  • To increase the difficulty, add a resistance band around your ankles

Walking. Walking is a basic, whole-body exercise that loads your pelvic floor in multiple ways. As you walk, you can pay attention to how you’re breathing–are you letting your ribs expand on the inhale? Can you feel the very subtle core support that walking requires?  This exercise is great for helping release tight hips and for making walking more effective for your pelvic floor. Strong and mobile hips are important for pelvic floor function, ongoing mobility, and ease in walking, standing, and sitting.

Tips for Making These Exercises Doable

  • Don’t think of the list above as a daily to-do list. Instead, set a timer for 5, 10, or 15 minutes, and instead of rushing through all the exercises, start with one or two exercises, more if you have the time. Be consistent but be flexible: not every day has to be a big exercise day
  • Do take time to walk every day, as long as walking doesn’t aggravate symptoms. Don’t overthink it: just getting outside and getting fresh air for even 10 minutes a day has positive physiological and physical effects
  • Try to practice your exercises at the same time every day creating a routine; many people prefer first thing in the morning so that they’re done. Other people prefer to wind down with some exercises at night 
  • One of my favorite tips for consistent movement that gently challenges your pelvic floor, especially if you’re juggling a new baby: take note of your movement preferences. Do you always put your left leg forward when you get up from the floor? Which leg do you tend to cross over the other? What happens if you do it the other way around? Do you always carry your groceries in one arm? Try using the other arm. Do you always sit the same way on the couch? Adding more variety to everyday movements can have a positive effect on pelvic health 
  • Remember, consistency and patience are essential. Your body has undergone massive changes through pregnancy and delivery – vaginally or by c-section. Healing and recovery can vary greatly, but it can take a year to adjust and recalibrate postpartum. You’ve done something incredible, and taking the necessary time to heal is crucial. Every body is different, so listen to yours and give the care and time it needs

When to Seek Help

While these pelvic floor exercises are perfectly safe once you’ve been medically cleared to exercise postpartum, it’s important to consult with a health care provider if you are experiencing excessive pain during exercises, unusual or increased bleeding, or any other symptoms that seem persistent and bothersome (leaking pee, a feeling of dragging or heaviness in your pelvis, constipation, pain during sex, etc.).

If you don’t feel a lack of improvement in how your pelvic floor is functioning or feeling after several weeks of exercising, you may want to seek professional help. The first stop is usually your doctor to get a referral to a pelvic health physical therapist or occupational therapist. Your PT can evaluate how your pelvic floor is responding and help monitor your progress as you continue healing. There are also online programs like Restore Your Core® that can help bridge the gap between doing a few exercises on your own and having a step-by-step rehab-focused exercise routine. 

You know your body best. If you feel like something’s wrong, don’t wait to ask for help. You deserve to feel at home in your body, and you deserve the same care for yourself that you give to others.

FAQ

1. Why is focusing on the pelvic floor important after childbirth?
Focusing on the pelvic floor after childbirth is crucial because these muscles play a key role in supporting the pelvic organs, controlling bladder and bowel function, and maintaining core stability. Childbirth can weaken or damage the pelvic floor muscles, leading to issues such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and reduced sexual function. Strengthening these muscles through targeted exercises helps in recovery, prevents complications, and improves overall pelvic health.

2. When can I start pelvic floor exercises after giving birth?
Pelvic floor exercises can usually be started as soon as you feel comfortable after childbirth, often within a few days to a few weeks. It’s important to listen to your body and consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise regimen. For those who had a vaginal delivery, starting gentle exercises early can aid in recovery, while those who had a C-section might need to wait until their incision heals.

3. Are there any risks associated with starting pelvic floor exercises too soon?
Starting pelvic floor exercises too soon can pose risks, particularly if you have a complicated delivery or significant tearing. Risks include:

  • Delayed healing: Overexertion can interfere with the healing process
  • Increased pain: Exercising too early may cause or exacerbate pain and discomfort
  • Improper technique: Starting before proper healing can lead to incorrect exercise techniques, which may not effectively strengthen the muscles or could worsen symptoms

Always get clearance from your healthcare provider before starting any postpartum exercise routine.

4. What are some signs that I’m doing pelvic floor exercises incorrectly?

  • Lack of improvement: No noticeable change in symptoms or muscle strength over time
  • Increased symptoms: Worsening of incontinence, pelvic pain, or prolapse symptoms
  • Pain or discomfort: Experiencing pain in the pelvic region or lower back during or after exercises

If you experience any of these signs, consider consulting a pelvic floor physical therapist for guidance.

5. How long does it take to see results from pelvic floor exercises?
Results from pelvic floor exercises can vary, but most women start to notice improvements within a few weeks to a few months of consistent practice. It typically takes around 6-12 weeks to see significant changes in muscle strength and symptom relief. Persistence and proper technique are key to achieving the best outcomes.

6. Can I do pelvic floor exercises if I had a C-section?
Although the pelvic floor may not have experienced the same level of strain as during a vaginal birth, pregnancy itself can weaken these muscles. Starting gentle pelvic floor exercises after a C-section can aid in recovery, improve core stability, and prevent issues like incontinence. It’s important to wait until your incision has healed and your healthcare provider gives you the green light to begin exercising.