What are pelvic floor exercises?

The pelvic floor muscles are located between your legs, and run from your pubic bone at the front to the base of your spine at the back. They are shaped like a sling and hold your bladder and urethra (the tube urine comes out of) in place.

The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and bowel and give you control when you urinate. They relax at the same time as the bladder contracts (tightens) to let urine out.

Keeping pelvic floor muscles strong

As you get older, your pelvic floor muscles get weaker. Women who have had children may also have weaker pelvic floor muscles.

Weakened pelvic muscles can cause problems, such as urinary incontinence (being unable to control when you pass urine) and reduced sensitivity (feeling) during sex.

Stress incontinence is a type of urinary incontinence where small amounts of urine leak out during an activity. Doing pelvic floor exercises can help improve stress incontinence by keeping your pelvic muscles strong. Both men and women can do pelvic floor exercises.

How to do pelvic floor exercises

You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet. However, it is not recommended that you regularly stop your flow of urine mid stream because it can be harmful to the bladder.

To strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times in a row. Do not hold your breath or tighten your stomach, buttock or thigh muscles at the same time.

When you get used to doing pelvic floor exercises, you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds. Every week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it and always have a rest in-between sets of squeezes.

After a few months, you should start to notice the results. Your incontinence should improve, as well as the sensitivity you experience during sex. You should carry on doing the exercises, even when you notice them starting to work.

Pregnancy

If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you can start doing pelvic floor exercises straight away. The exercises will lower your risk of experiencing incontinence after having your baby.

Sex

For women, as well as helping improve symptoms of urinary incontinence, strong pelvic floor muscles can also mean increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms.

Pelvic floor exercises can also benefit men with problems such as erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or keeping an erection) and urinary incontinence.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 22/02/2013

Next review due: 21/02/2015