During late fall and deep winter months, finding motivation to move can feel like an insurmountable hurdle. This is why I, a pelvic floor physical therapist, would like to offer you some beneficial postpartum pelvic floor exercises for your deep core. These easy exercises are ones you can do without having to bundle up or go to a gym. The highly beneficial movements are gentle and can be done from home while catching up on your favorite show, feeding your baby, or just hanging out.
To activate the deep core, it’s important to must first understand it a bit more.
The pelvic floor is one of the four deep core muscle groups that work together in our abdominal region. Envision a hammock that goes from front to the back of your tailbone.
It’s like any other muscle that can get tight or weak. It also has different elements we can work on like coordination, endurance, strength, relaxation/stretch, and reactivity. So, just doing Kegels doesn’t really work the full potential of the pelvic floor.
To make it a bit more complex, the pelvic floor has three different layers. Sometimes one layer is tight while the others are OK. Or, sometimes the right side or left side might be tight and can refer painful sensations to your hip or back. Tightness of one of the layers can also create the sensation of having to go to the bathroom all the time (also known as frequency incontinence).
Oh, and men have pelvic floors, too! Their pelvic floors just tend to have less issues because of the different anatomy, specifically the shape of their pelvis in general and tissue composition of the muscle itself. E
Easy Postpartum Pelvic Floor Exercises
So, to work your pelvic floor in a truly holistic way you have to put it through a few gentle drills:
- Lift for strength: This would be like doing a Kegel. This is important for prevention/treatment of stress incontinence. I don’t advise practicing your Kegels on the toilet, as it can confuse the bladder/pelvic floor’s messaging to each other.
- Activate all three layers: Imagine that, at rest, your pelvic floor is the elevator in a lobby. Then, lift it a little bit to the first floor, a little bit more to the second floor, then, to the third floor, back to the second floor, to the first, and back to the lobby. Or, said another way, like a very slow Kegel.
- Stretch it: Envision you are “widening the opening” a bit, like the sensation of passing gas. Or, to go back to the elevator image, that your pelvic floor is being lowered gently to the basement level. This is important for people with pelvic floors that are “hypertonic” or tight (and may lead to frequency and/or urgency incontinence).
- Lift for endurance: Lift pelvic floor (like a Kegel), hold, and then release completely. Make sure you’re not holding your breath. This is important for countering the role of gravity on the pelvic floor over time. A hold for up to 10 seconds is considered “normal.” If you’re not there yet, then that’s OK! Gradually work up to it, increasing a second every two or so weeks.
I like to recommend starting these different movements while lying on your back, knees bent, since that takes working against gravity out of the picture. Then, once you feel strong on your back, move to your side, then graduate to seated, and then eventually, standing.
I always recommend that you double check with a pelvic health physical therapist and/or your midwife or obstetrician to make sure you are performing a Kegel properly and not utilizing other muscle groups.
P.S. Check out Dr. Patel’s great blog post about breastfeeding stretches, too!
Monika Patel, DPT, CSCS has a passion for empowering women to prepare mentally and physically for a safe, well-balanced journey into motherhood. She has applied her knowledge toward preventive medicine and established Train4Birth, an affordable online education and beneficial movement course with a built-in accountability and support feature. She is also the mother of a truck-loving toddler and couldn’t be happier digging with him in the backyard.