You go to the gym to lift weights and do cardio, but have you ever thought about strengthening your pelvic floor? While pelvic floor exercises are recommended for pregnant women to help make birth easier, every person can find benefits from doing these exercises. We’re here to explain in simple terms just what the pelvic floor is, and some exercises that can help strengthen this important group of muscles.
So What Even is the Pelvic Floor?
Before we get into exercises, let’s talk about what the pelvic floor is and its function in your body. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that span from your tailbone to your pubic bone. Sometimes this region of your body can be referred to as a muscular “hammock.” This is because you can imagine it as a hammock between your hip bones that holds your bladder, uterus, rectum, and other pelvic organs in place. Wow, right?
The pelvic floor serves a variety of different purposes in your body – it helps to support your spine and hips, controls the bowel and bladder, helps with breathing, and finally aids in that region’s blood circulation. As you can see, the pelvic floor does quite a bit for your body, so keeping it strengthened can maintain many different bodily functions.
During pregnancy, a woman’s pelvic floor can become weakened due to the additional pressure placed on the area. As the fetus begins to grow in a woman’s womb, the muscles are under more and more pressure, causing them to work harder. At the same time, your body releases particular hormones such as relaxin and progesterone that can soften your muscles to prepare you for delivering a baby. That’s why performing exercises that are targeted at strengthening your pelvic floor is so important when you’re pregnant.
3 Pelvic Floor Exercises to Try at Home
When it comes to strengthening your pelvic floor, luckily there are a variety of different exercises that you can do daily at home to strengthen your pelvic muscles. We’re here to share with you some of the top exercises that will help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles that are quick and can be easily incorporated into any day.
One of the most common exercises that can be recommended are called Kegels (pronounced: KEE-gulls). This exercise, developed by Arnold Kegel in 1948, focuses on contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles to strengthen them. To perform this exercise, a helpful cue that you can think about is to imagine stopping the flow of urine. Funny, but true.
First, grab your favorite yoga mat and lie on your back with the bottoms of your feet flat and touching the floor. From here, make a mind-muscle connection to your pelvic floor and begin contracting these muscles as you simultaneously lift your hips up and then relax your muscles as you lower your hips back down to the mat. Performing this exercise makes your pelvic floor muscles more flexible while you also stretch the inner thighs.
You might think that breathing exercises are simple and won’t have a huge impact on your pelvic floor but that isn’t true. Deep breathing is an essential exercise that can help with many different functions of your body including your pelvic floor, such as helping you to slow down and relax.
To perform this exercise, be sure to think of your breathing as if you are using the entire 360-degree circumference of your core. To begin, ground yourself and begin with a deep inhale using the entirety of your lungs and then exhale completely. Do this same process eight to ten times in a row to get the most benefit. Watch a cute example video from Hope’s friend and motherhood fitness expert Brooke Cates or this soothing meditative one if you’re stuck on this form!
You’ve maybe done squats before at the gym, but performing a deep, controlled squat can help relieve any tightness in your pelvic floor. To perform this exercise, stand straight and position your feet about shoulder width apart from each other. From there, extend your arms out so that they are parallel to the floor. Slightly lean forward while keeping your back straight and not rounded and lower yourself to the floor. From there, use your core muscles to lift yourself back up to your initial starting position.
Hope has performed many exercises to strengthen her body, including her pelvic floor, to prepare for the birth of her children. You can read about prepping your body and even explore a pre- and postpartum exercise circuit from Brooke Cates in Hope’s book, Your Body Is Magic. Motherhood-preparing exercises such as these, along with self-care in the form of meditation, and MUTHA™ products like the stretch mark-reducing Body Butter can help you prepare for a healthy pregnancy.