Pelvic Floor Exercises for Incontinence During and After Pregnancy

What to expect when you’re expecting

Pelvic floor exercises for women – which involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor – aren’t just helpful throughout pregnancy and in the months after childbirth, they’re also beneficial for all stages of life, which is why experts recommend doing them every day.

What happens to your pelvic floor during pregnancy

Your pelvic floor goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, which can have an impact on your bladder
Hormones such as progesterone and relaxin help to loosen and relax your muscles, joints and ligaments to allow your body to stretch and prepare it for delivering a baby. This also weakens the muscles that control urine flow, so leaks (also known as incontinence) can become more common.
Throw in the weight of a growing baby and constipation, which we can also be prone to during pregnancy, and there’s even more pressure on the pelvic floor. This weakens the support around your urinary tract, which can mean you experience light leaks – especially when you laugh, cough or sneeze. The weight of your baby pushing up against your bladder also causes you to feel the urge to pee more frequently.

How Kegel pregnancy exercises can help to reduce leaks

Your pelvic floor has been weakened, but since it’s a muscle, it can be trained again. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises can help to reduce leaks by strengthening the muscles in your pelvic floor. 
This gives you the support you need to carry the extra weight of a baby while also counteracting the softening effect that those pregnancy hormones have on your muscles and ligaments. They also help to keep the pelvic floor elastic with good blood circulation, which can improve recovery time after childbirth. 

How to strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy

Step 1: Find your pelvic floor muscles
The next time you are peeing, focus on stopping the flow of urine midway through emptying your bladder. Stop the flow for a second or two, then relax and finish emptying as normal. This is a great way to help you identify your pelvic floor muscles if you’re having trouble finding them, but this is not a pelvic floor exercise, so only do this if you need to understand which muscles to engage.
Step 2: Work on your technique
The best way to most effectively engage your pelvic floor while pregnant is to lie on your side. This allows you to concentrate on strengthening the muscles while avoiding the extra degree of difficulty that gravity throws in when you’re sitting or standing. 
The technique behind postpartum pelvic floor exercises isn’t difficult, but it does take a bit of practice before you can perform it effectively.
Start by tightening the muscles gently so you can feel the pelvic floor muscles lifting and drawing together and squeeze for as long as you can – you might only be able to hold for a couple of seconds, or you might make it to five seconds – then relax for the same amount of time. And repeat.
Be careful not to tighten the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. You should only engage the pelvic floor muscles and try not to hold your breath as you do it. If you’re in any doubt about your technique, it’s a good idea to contact a healthcare professional for advice.
Step 3: Try some pelvic floor exercises
There are a few different pelvic floor exercises you can try. If you can, try to do three pelvic floor exercises a day and mix up the types to work your pelvic floor in different ways.
  • The simple clench
    To isolate the pelvic floor muscles, start by clenching the muscles around your back passage. Then continue clenching around the vagina and urethra. Keep clenching as if you are holding something in your vagina, while keeping your buttocks and thighs relaxed. Keep clenching for two seconds, then relax for two seconds. Repeat as many times as you can.

  • The strength clench
    Clench the pelvic floor muscles as tightly as you can. See if you can hold for five seconds, relax for five seconds and repeat that 5–10 times. It’s okay if you can’t do this right away; how long you can hold for will depend on how strong your pelvic floor is. Start small and build up slowly.

  • The endurance clench
    Clench with medium tightness for as long as possible. Try to hold the clench for 60 seconds. Do this each time you’ve finished a session of strength clenching. 

  • Quickness clench
    Clench as hard as you can for two seconds. Then relax for two seconds. Repeat this 5–10 times. It’s a great one to try if you feel a sneeze, cough or laugh coming to avoid a leak.

How to strengthen your pelvic floor after childbirth

During the first one or two weeks after birth, you’ll find that you pee much more frequently as your body gets rid of the excess fluid you retained during your pregnancy. While you can be super diligent with pelvic floor exercises for incontinence while pregnant, you might find it trickier after birth. 
That’s because labor puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor. It has been stretched and there’s a lot of bruising and swelling, so it can take a while for you to identify the muscles again and build up strength. 
Performing the pelvic floor exercises correctly 
If you’ve recently given birth, it’s best to do the exercises lying down to avoid putting any extra pressure on the pelvic area. You can also do them while you’re sitting down and feeding your baby. 
Start with gentle pelvic floor contractions. It’s normal to feel a bit sore down below following the birth of your baby, so stop if you experience any discomfort. It’s best to start small and build things up slowly over time.   
It takes time to build up strength again 
It can take a few weeks to see some improvement, or it may take a few months – everyone is different. If you feel like the pelvic floor strengthening isn’t working after a few months, or if you have any questions, have a chat with your doctor and/or a physical therapist.  
The weight of carrying around a baby for nine months and labor can cause bladder weakness for a while after childbirth, which is very common. Urine leaks can last a few weeks, or over time you might find that you experience the odd accident now and again.  
Finding the right protection 
It’s worth investing in pads or liners that have the right absorbency levels to meet your requirements. If you’re experiencing heavy postpartum leaks, TENA Sensitive Care Ultimate Regular Pads are a heavier absorbency pad with our gentle SkinComfort Formula. Our skin friendly layer in combination with our soft and 100% breathable materials, help protect intimate skin.
For lighter leaks, TENA Intimates Light Ultra Thin Regular Pads provides triple protection against leaks, odor, and moisture.


Pelvic floor exercises for incontinence can be a great way to manage and reduce leaks during and after pregnancy. It’s important to note that not all bladder and incontinence problems can be improved with pelvic floor exercises alone, so if you’re unsure about your symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for tailored advice.  
TENA is here to help you navigate your pregnancy and postpartum journey, with practical advice for pregnancy and postpartum incontinence. If you feel that you need more support, don’t hesitate to contact a healthcare professional, like your nearest GP. We have a huge range of products designed to support you – check out the full range here and don’t hesitate to contact us if you can’t find the right product for you.