Stretching and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy can help relieve your aches and pains — and alleviate stress and tension too. Pelvic floor stretches will also help you have an easier delivery and decrease your risk of urinary incontinence later on.
As your pregnancy progresses, your posture shifts to redistribute the weight of your growing baby belly and breasts. For many women, this can result in tightness and discomfort in the lower back, neck and the muscles around the pelvic floor which come under considerable strain in pregnancy and childbirth.
The pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles that stretch from the pubic bone (in front) to the tip of the tailbone (in back). Keeping these muscles active and robust will help improve your range of motion and ensure a smooth and more comfortable pregnancy — whether you’re grocery shopping, working out, or just relaxing on the couch.
Below we’ll break down 8 pelvic floor stretches to keep you and your baby comfortable during pregnancy, ease your labor, and enhance your delivery.
If you have questions or need guidance after watching the videos below, consider enlisting a physical therapist to help. You don’t need a referral to do this. After an initial evaluation and assessment of your pain and discomfort, your physical therapist will recommend the best pelvic floor stretches for you and explain step-by-step how to do them.
Some of the most effective pelvic floor stretches you can do at home are:
- Seated Pelvic Enhancer. Sit comfortably on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight. Extend your left leg and place it on a block or book about 6 inches off the floor. Flex your left foot. Inhale and sit upright, placing your hands on your hips or thighs. Exhale and bend forward keeping your spine straight. Bend only as far forward as you can without any discomfort. Inhale slowly come up. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably). Then switch legs and repeat on the other side.
- Seated Pelvic Hip Opener. Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your left foot and bring it across your body to place it over your right knee. Place your hands under your left knee. Inhale and gently lift your left knee up towards your chest. Exhale and gently lower the knee down towards the floor. Do not force or work with any discomfort. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably). Then switch legs and repeat on the other side. Variation: If it’s more comfortable, place both your hands on top of your left knee, and as you exhale, gently guide your left knee down toward the floor. Repeat on the other side.
- Cat Stretch Pelvic Toner. On a mat or carpet on the floor, come down onto your knees. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips with your lower legs and feet flat on the floor behind you (you’ll be in a table-top position). Inhale and look up, arch your back, and press your buttocks back and away from you (you’ll feel an arch in your lower back sinking down). Exhale and curl your chin and tailbone in toward each other (you’ll feel your lower back lifting up and rounding). Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably).
- Cat Stretch Pelvic Toner 2. In the same table-top position, inhale and bring your back into a neutral position (neither arching nor rounding). Exhale and shift your hips to the left as far as you can comfortably go. Inhale come back to the center. Exhale and then shift your hips to the right as far as comfortable. Inhale back to center. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably).
- Cat Stretch Pelvic Toner 3. From a table-top position, inhale and extend your left arm forward in front of you keeping the palm of your hand on the floor. Exhale and slowly bring your right arm across your chest and reach toward your left (your right arm will be extended on the floor). Turn your head to look at your right hand. Inhale and come back to center. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably). Then repeat on the other side. This is a great stretch for the whole pelvic region, lower back, and shoulders!
- Cat Stretch Pelvic Toner 4. From a table-top position, inhale and walk both hands forward to extend your arms. Exhale and slowly lean back dropping your buttocks down toward your heels. Let your head relax and look down. Lean back only as far as you can go without any pain or discomfort. Inhale back to center. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably).
- Seated Resistance Stretch. Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Place both hands on your left knee. Inhale and slowly lift your left knee, lifting your foot about 6-8 inches off the floor while at the same time providing gentle resistance with your hands. Exhale and lower your foot back on to the floor. Repeat 10 times (or as many as you can do comfortably). Repeat on the other side.
- Standing Pelvic Toner. Stand up and place a chair in front of you. Keeping your right leg straight, inhale and place your left foot flat onto the chair (there should be about a right angle at your left knee). Exhale and bring your hands onto your left thigh or hips (to keep you balanced). Breathe for about 30 seconds. Then lower the leg down. Repeat on the other side.
If you’re experiencing pain performing any of these exercises, or if your pain levels don’t progressively improve after a few weeks, you should consider asking a licensed physical therapist about manual therapy. Manual therapy is a specialized form of therapy in which the physical therapist uses their hands instead of equipment to address pain sources.