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Pelvic floor exercises for women

Whakangungu pae papatoiake mā ngā wāhine

Pelvic floor exercises aim to improve your muscle tone. A health professional may have recommended that you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles (PFMs). Or you might feel that you have or are at risk of pelvic floor problems.

Exercising your PFMs can help to:

Find your pelvic floor muscles

The first step is to correctly identify the muscles:

If you aren't sure if you're doing it right, try to stop your flow when weeing, then restart it. Only do this once to identify and test the correct muscles to use. Do not exercise your pelvic floor muscles this way as it can cause issues with your pelvic health. You can also test your pelvic floor muscles by placing one to two clean fingers into your vagina and squeezing your muscles around them. The muscles should be squeezing around your fingers and lifting your fingers into your vagina.

If you cannot feel any definite squeeze and lift action in your pelvic floor muscles, it's important that you seek professional advice in private from a continence advisor or pelvic floor physiotherapist. Or you can ask your general practice team for a referral to Nurse Maude.

How to strengthen your PFMs

Do the following exercises two to three times per day. You can do them lying, sitting or standing.

  1. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can and hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  2. Rest for 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 five times.
  4. Do five short, fast, strong contractions (pulling up quickly and immediately letting go).


As your pelvic floor gets stronger, you can:

You can also try changing position and doing the exercises when doing other activities.

Your goal is to be able to tighten your PFMs strongly before you cough, sneeze or lift something heavy.

If you've been assessed by a pelvic floor physiotherapist, they will give you a specific PFM exercise programme to follow.

Pregnancy and your pelvic floor

If you're pregnant, you should receive a booklet from your midwife, LMC or maternity ward called Physiotherapist advice after childbirth. This contains a section specifically on PFM exercises after childbirth.

It's very important to give your pelvic floor muscles time to recover and not return to high-impact sport too soon after your baby is born. A leaflet from Pelvic Floor First explains how returning to sports too early can damage your muscles further and sets out a programme for a safe and healthy return to sport.

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Written by Allied Health – Physiotherapy Services, Christchurch Women's Hospital. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed April 2023.


Page reference: 21184

Review key: HIURS-53047