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How to do pelvic floor exercises

You will need to get into the correct position before you start doing the exercises.

Get comfortable

If you haven’t done pelvic floor exercises before or you have a weak pelvic floor, choose a comfortable position with the muscles of your thighs, bottom and stomach relaxed. Lying down on your side is a good position when you start for the first time. Then gradually move on and practice the exercises while sitting, standing, walking and during exercise.

Do not practice the exercises while using the toilet as it can increase the chance of a urinary tract infection.

Correct posture

Holding the right posture will make it easier to do the exercises correctly. If you are sitting, make sure you sit upright and supported. If you are lying down, push your back flat against the floor.

The exercises

There are 2 ways to do pelvic floor muscle exercises. It can help to imagine that your pelvic floor is a lift or elevator. The initial squeeze is like the elevator door closing and this is followed by a lift of the muscle.

Exercise 1: Slow pelvic floor muscle exercise

  1. Breathe all the way out before you start.
  2. Tighten the muscles of your back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind (a fart).
  3. Now tighten and lift the muscles at the front as it you are trying not to pass urine (pee).
  4. Hold both squeezes for as long as you can - breathe normally while squeezing the muscle.
  5. Start with 5 second squeezes and then do it for longer as you feel stronger. Aim to eventually squeeze for 10 seconds.
  6. After each squeeze, relax for the same amount of time as the squeeze.
  7. You should have a clear feeling of release when you relax between squeezes.
  8. Repeat the exercise several times until the muscle feels tired. Aim for 10 repetitions.

You may feel the lower part of your stomach draw in when you do this. This is a good sign if it is a feeling of tension below your belly button. It should not be a sucking in of your tummy muscles.

Exercise 2: Quick holds

  1. Breathe all the way out before you start.
  2. Quickly pull up the front and back passages in a strong and quick lift.
  3. Now relax the squeeze before you start again.
  4. Repeat the squeeze up to 20 times.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises - How to do them

When to do pelvic floor muscle exercises

You should do pelvic floor muscle exercises 3 times each day. It can take time to train the muscles. You can reduce it to 1 session a day when you feel they are strong and react well when you squeeze them. This helps to keep them strong as you get older.

Practice during activities

Most women only leak when doing activities. To prevent accidents when out walking or doing exercises, learn to hold your posture and abdominal control. This means:

  • holding your pelvic floor to a low level of squeeze, and
  • gently drawing in the lower tummy (below your belly button) or making it tense

Squeeze when you cough or sneeze

Squeezing while you cough or sneeze helps to avoid accidental leakage of urine. As you breathe in to cough or sneeze, quickly tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Keep squeezing while you cough or squeeze. This is called "the knack".

Why pelvic floor exercises are so important - HSE mychild.ie

Common mistakes

Common mistakes when trying to exercise your pelvic floor muscles include:

  • clenching your bum muscles
  • squeezing your inner thigh muscles
  • sucking in your tummy – a gentle tension below the naval is fine but anything more than this is not helpful
  • not allowing the pelvic floor to relax between squeezes
  • holding your breath - try counting out loud while squeezing to avoid this
  • bearing or pushing down on your breath while squeezing

Other tips

Other tips include:

  • do not go to the toilet “just in case” - learn to take control of your bladder and have confidence
  • drink normally - you should drink 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day if you are pregnant
  • avoid tea and coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol
  • watch your weight - being overweight can put more strain on your muscles
  • avoid constipation and straining by eating more fibre in your diet
  • remind yourself to do the exercises by setting an alarm on your phone or putting a sticker on your fridge, car mirror or bathroom mirror

Page last reviewed: 4 December 2018
Next review due: 4 December 2021

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.