Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises for New Mums

postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Weakness of the pelvic floor muscle can occur during pregnancy as well as post delivery, therefore it is important to strengthen the muscle both whist pregnant and after delivery (both vaginal delivery and c-sections).

Pregnancy puts a strain on a woman’s body in lots of different ways. Carrying a child can put strain on the pelvic floor muscles causing them to weaken. Vaginal delivery can also cause trauma to the muscle especially if interventions such as forceps are used.

If you fail to strengthen the pelvic floor you increase the risk of developing problems like prolapses and incontinence. Our age and hormonal changes can also have an impact on the health of the pelvic floor too.

It is important to remember that when training the pelvic floor muscle you consider that you have two types of muscle fibres. We have fast twitch muscle fibres that activate when we cough, laugh and sneeze, and slow twitch muscle fibres that activate when we are desperate for the toilet! Training them takes two different methods.

Where to start with pelvic floor exercises

The first place to start it to work out where your pelvic floor muscle is and how it feels to contract it. If you really have no idea at all, try stopping your flow of urine next time you are at the toilet, that is your pelvic floor muscle! I would never suggest you practice your exercises this way but it is a good way to help you identify the muscle.

I would then advise you start building strength in the slow twitch fibres. Using feedback is a good way to build awareness of the pelvic floor and tactile sensation allows for a better technique. Sit on a chair or gym ball, tilt your pelvis forwards slightly so you can feel the pressure on the front genital area, now imagine there is a jellybean (or other small sweet!) underneath you, try to use your pelvic floor muscle to lift the jellybean up inside you, try and hold for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.

Initially you might only be able to hold for a few seconds but build up over time. Once you have mastered this try and imagine lifting and lowering the jellybean to different heights (almost as though your pelvic floor is a lift with perhaps three floors, take it up to the top level then drop it down to level two and so on) this builds great control of the muscle as well as strength.

Postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Another exercise for your pelvic floor

My other top exercise it to lay on your back with your knees bent and a ball between your knees, ensure your lower back is slightly lifted from the floor to set your spine into neutral. Squeeze the ball between your thighs and engage the pelvic floor muscle. At the same time flatten your back down to the ground, you want to have a sensation of tightening around the pubic bone with this exercise.

By squeezing the ball you activate your adductor muscles (inner thigh) which when activated will help you engage deeper with the pelvic floor. You can progress this when able to hold 10 seconds 10 reps to lifting your bottom up into a bridge position.

This is a better exercise to perform post-partum. I wouldn’t recommend this during pregnancy.

postpartum pelvic floor exercises

Building strength in the fast twitch fibres requires you to quickly contract and relax the pelvic floor , 10 fast contractions three times a day is easy to fit in! Many women after having children find it impossible to jump or star jump without leaking, Once your strength has improved post partum with the above exercises try then building functional strength by performing pelvic floor exercises whist jumping!

Unfortunately pelvic floor strength doesn’t just happen it takes effort to build strength and tone back into the muscle, as it does with any muscle. Persevere and your efforts will pay off!

Image credits: Lyndsay Hirst

About our guest author: Lyndsay Hirst is a chartered physiotherapist and a clinical Pilates instructor with over 15 years experience at working in the musculoskeletal field. She runs a hugely successful physiotherapy practice in the UK as well as a website with online clinical Pilates classes.

Like this? Why not Pin it?

Postpartum Self Care: New Baby? How To Still Take Care Of Yourself

postpartum self care

The first 12 weeks are the toughest, they say. The learning curve was steep. My husband said that in the first week of our son’s life, he had learned more than in the past 10 years. I had to agree. But as we get to the end of those 12 weeks (and I listen to very loud and strange baby sleeping/groaning noises), I am feeling reflective. I want to reflect on the priorities I set out before the baby was born to look after myself, then the baby, then everyone else. Here is what I have observed about postpartum self care.

postpartum self care

There is no doubt that is hard to prioritise yourself when there is a newborn screaming to be fed. For example, this morning I wanted nothing more than to meet my friends and their babies for a swim and a chat. My son? He wanted nothing more than to feed for 1.5 hours and then sleep. That, was not the time for prioritising myself. But as I sat there with him, I planned what my self care would be once he fell asleep: tea and chocolate. It is small but it was enough.

The First 12 weeks of postpartum self care

So here are the top things I’ve learned about postpartum self care during those first 12 weeks.

Small is good

Aim for small. Focus on the small things that have a big impact for you e.g. 10 minutes of yoga while your partner has the baby, 5 minutes to drink a cup of tea with two hands, 5 minutes to have a dip in the pool. If you get more time, great, do more. But if you aim for small things that are likely to happen you don’t set yourself up for unrealistic expectations and resentment.

Housework will get done

Rather than sit with my tea, I was tempted to empty the dishwasher. I didn’t allow myself to do it. The dishwasher will eventually get emptied; this was my only window for tea. Priorities.

Take the toilet breaks when you get them

Feeding nearly constantly means that getting even two minutes to go to the bathroom at the time you need to might be a luxury. If you get a window, use it!

postnatal self care

Prioritise rest

To some people, it is ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ seems like wishful thinking (and it probably is if you have more than one child). I don’t sleep every time he sleeps. I listen to my body and decide whether I need sleep or something else to nourish me. But I always prioritise rest. Rest can be whatever you find restorative. Before I had a baby, I used to do this by saying, ‘two sessions; not three!’ This meant that if I did something in the morning and afternoon (two sessions), I rested in the evening (3rd session=rest). With a baby, for me, it’s more like ‘one session; not three!’ Find what works for you.

Get prepared

My son likes to feed (a lot!) which can mean hours on end looking at his little face with his eyes closed. He is happy and I enjoy watching him. To a point. Then, I get bored, thirsty, and hungry. I start prepping by putting things within a reaching distance: books, journals, computer, TV remotes, water, and food. It is a godsend.

Accept help

I wrote a whole post about this but I think it is so important that it needs repeating. Yesterday, I asked a stranger to help me get my purse out of my bag to pay for parking. I had a baby on boob, a baby carrier around my waist and a backpack on my back… yeah! Flustered (after nearly 2 hours of a screaming baby), my first reaction was to stop, put everything down, get my purse out, and hope there was $2 in there. In a split second, I thought of my word for the year ‘ask’ and realised there was an alternative. The stranger ended up paying the $2.

So, there you have it. I am amazed to say that postpartum self-care is possible with a newborn. I am not sure I believed it would be. But I think the core strand that runs through all of this is flexibility. I have tried not to compare what I used to do, to now. There is no comparison. I know that eventually I’ll get to go for a massage without worrying about the next feed. But in the meantime, tea, chocolate, and the odd bit of time to write is enough.

So, what can you do to prioritise yourself during pregnancy, and in those first 12 weeks, and beyond?

About the writer: Dr. Amanda McCullough from Not Just Mum

Amanda is a life coach, award-winning scientist, health professional and speaker at Not Just Mum. She coaches intelligent, brave and honest women through the transition from passionate career woman to motherhood and back again. A move to Australia in 2014, her two uteruses and expertise in behavior change and women’s leadership led her to create Not Just Mum where she offers workshops, one-to-one consults and coaching series to support women to maintain their sanity and identity in this challenging and joy-filled time of life.

Find Amanda on her website, on Facebook and on Instagram.

Article images credit: Dr. Amanda McCullough