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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Pelvic floor exercises for women

Diagram showing pelvic floor musclesYour pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) lie at the base of your pelvis between your pubic bone at the front and your tail bone at the back. The outlets from your bladder (urethra), vagina and back passage (anal canal) pass through your PFMs.

The PFMs support your pelvic organs (bladder, uterus and rectum – the lower part of your bowel). They help to prevent leakage of urine (wee) from your bladder, and wind or faeces (poo) from your back passage. They also support your pelvis and lower back.

When your PFMs get weak or are damaged, they don't work as well. Common causes of this are:

Exercising your PFMs can help to:

How to strengthen your PFMs

  1. Lie on your side. You may like to have a pillow in front of your tummy or between your thighs. You need to feel comfortable.
  2. Relax your tummy, bottom and thighs (when you are relaxed you will see your tummy gently rise and fall as you breathe). It is important that you do this step before you tighten your PFMs.
  3. Squeeze and lift up into your vagina (or imagine lifting a tampon up inside or stopping passing wind or urine). Ensure that your tummy stays relaxed and you continue to breathe normally.
  4. Try to lift and hold for one to three seconds then rest for five seconds. Repeat eight to 10 times, three times per day.

If you have been assessed by a West Coast DHB physiotherapist, they will give you a specific PFM exercise programme to follow.

More advanced PFM exercises

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

If you are pregnant, you should receive a booklet from your lead maternity carer or from the maternity ward called Looking after your body after childbirth. This contains a section specifically on PFM exercises after childbirth.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Information provided by the Canterbury DHB. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Last reviewed May 2016.


Page reference: 198423

Review key: HIPFM-21184