Login
Your Position: Home > Sports & Entertainment > The Best Postpartum Belly Wraps for Support ... - Parents

The Best Postpartum Belly Wraps for Support ... - Parents

Author: becky
Nov. 28, 2023
  • 192
  • 0

Because of all the uncomfortable ways carrying a baby and giving birth change your body from head to toe (your abs, your pelvic floor, your posture, the list goes on), pregnant and postpartum people are often on the lookout for relief. Experts, parents, and even doctors sometimes recommend belly bands to help balance the load on the back and hips during pregnancy. But do postpartum belly wraps also deliver on all their promises for restoring midsections to their pre-baby state?

So you can decide what's right for your body, we asked experts for insight on belly wraps and what they can help with, plus we found a selection of bands that parents swear by.

  • RELATED: The Best Maternity Leggings for Every Occasion

Illustration by Sarina Finkelstein; Courtesy of Belly Bandit and Amazon

Can Belly Wraps Help Postpartum?

Postpartum belly wraps have been around for generations, ever since people started wrapping sheets around their midsections after giving birth, explains board-certified OB-GYN Heather Bartos, M.D., founder of be. Women's Health and Wellness in Cross Roads, Texas. And while there isn't a ton of data about their use during pregnancy or postpartum, there are some studies to suggest at least some benefits.

For one, most experts agree that light support postpartum—when tissues and organs start moving back into place—can help you feel better, which was the case for Ashleigh M., a 30-year-old in New York who used a belly wrap after a vaginal delivery.

"I felt like my body was just complete jello after birth, and wearing the wrap helped me feel less like jello in those first few weeks postpartum," she says. "It also provided some welcome back and core support for breastfeeding."

How Postpartum Belly Bands Work

Light compression from abdominal wraps can support your natural transverse abdominal when you can't contract it yet, explains Michelle Guido, D.P.T., founder of Activo Physical Therapy in San Diego.

Belly wraps more or less "splint" the muscles that have separated during pregnancy (something that happens in all pregnancies, BTW, to make room for a growing uterus), adds Dr. Bartos. This could help you be more conscious of using your abs, which is step one in getting them back to full strength, notes Guido. They could also help with spinal alignment, encouraging, in turn, organs, the uterus, and all the muscles around them get back to business as usual, she explains.

Additional potential perks? There's some research to suggest that binding can help improve body image, and—with exercise—trunk flexion (how well you can bend forward, basically).

Of course, your abdominal muscles do make their way back together on their own in time, and Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine notes that there's not much research to suggest that binders truly help the healing process. They also won't help accelerate the healing of an abdominal separation, says Guido.

But? If you feel better, that probably helps healing in and of itself, says Dr. Minkin.

Belly Band for C-Section Recovery

Other potential benefits of a wrap include alleviating pain related to a C-section. One small recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that people who wore a binder after having a C-section experienced less pain, suggesting that a postpartum belly wrap might be a good way to deal with postpartum pain. Other research suggests that a binder could help with pain, with no significant difference in bleeding, allowing new parents to focus more on feeding and bonding and less on being distracted by pain.

Dr. Bartos notes that wraps could also help with pain from gas from an exposed abdomen (which traps gas and can be super painful).

At the same time, other studies find no effect on recovery or levels of distress for parents who delivered via cesarean. Abby G., a mom of two who lives in Westwood, Massachusetts used a wrap after both of her deliveries (one that was a C-section and one that was a vaginal delivery), for example, and says that the band didn't help with the pain.

Can Belly Wraps Help During Pregnancy?

Many women use abdominal binders not only postpartum but also for support during pregnancy, too, says Guido. Generally speaking, abdominal binders are fine to use for comfort during pregnancy when your abdominal muscles stretch (read: uncomfortable), says Dr. Minkin.

They help provide support, explains Guido, which can alleviate back and joint pain for some women, offloading weight away from the abdomen.

Ashleigh used this belly band during her third trimester when she was hit with immense pubic pressure. "There were some nights I was in so much pain, I couldn't even walk from our bedroom to the bathroom," she says. "My doctor suggested a belly band and I ordered one pretty much immediately."

The band helped relieve the pressure, she says, plus it had the added benefit of keeping maternity jeans and leggings in place.

What to Keep in Mind If You Use a Belly Wrap

Want to try a band or wrap during pregnancy or postpartum? Make sure it's not too tight. The reasoning is two-fold: Extra compression puts more pressure on your pelvic floor, which is especially weak postpartum and also holds a lot of weight during pregnancy. (So if you have signs of incontinence, leaking, or vaginal prolapse, be cautious about using the binders, says Guido.)

Also, during pregnancy, you don't want to constrict blood flow to the uterus, notes Dr. Minkin. A band would have to be amazingly tight to decrease blood flow to the uterus, she says, but the concern is worth noting.

If you had a C-section, make sure the edge of the band is not directly on your incision, where it could irritate the wound, notes Dr. Bartos.

Should You Buy a Postpartum Belly Wrap?

While a belly wrap may help you feel better during pregnancy or post-baby, it's not going to be a cure-all and you don't want to rely on it for complete relief or recovery. "A wrap is never going to take over the function of your muscles," Guido says. Proper exercise (or rest when needed!), core work, and pelvic floor moves can help you rehab and heal in time, she notes.

Curious about postpartum belly binding (and whether or not it works)? Here's what the experts have to say on this celeb-loved practice.

If you’ve been pregnant and have given birth any time during the last five years or so, odds are pretty high that your social media feeds have been inundated with photos of celebrities or popular mom bloggers wearing and raving about postpartum belly binding in the form of belly wraps and bands. Celeb moms like Cardi B and Jessica Alba swear that wearing one after giving birth was the key to getting back to their pre-baby bods.

But just how well do these postpartum wraps work, what can and can’t they do and how the heck are you supposed to wear them anyway? We asked experts and real moms for their thoughts and advice around postpartum belly binding.

What is postpartum belly binding?

Although the hype around belly wraps and bands has exploded over the last decade because of the celebrity moms who swear by them, the practice of postpartum belly binding has been around for centuries. Belly wrapping is an old practice in Malaysian culture where it is known as “bengkung,” and it has also been in practice in places like Japan and Mexico for hundreds of years. Women would wrap a piece of muslin or similar cloth around the abdomen of a new mom immediately after she had given birth to help give her extra physical support as her body healed.

These days, there are plenty of belly wrap products available in stores or online for moms to choose from if they decide to go this route after giving birth. In fact, some hospitals even supply new moms with a postpartum wrap to bring home.

What does postpartum belly binding do?

A postpartum wrap or band can be used to help support your abdominal muscles directly in the first few weeks after you give birth, when those muscles are at their weakest. They can also provide light compression to help your uterus shrink back, although that will happen naturally anyway. Many moms use postpartum wraps after vaginal births, but they can be especially helpful to women who gave birth via C-section.

“After you have a C-section, your abs are weakened and you have very little control over them,” says Sarah Ellis Duvall, founder of Core Exercise Solutions, physical therapist, and mom of two. “The wrap can help give you that extra bit of support.”

“After you have a C-section, your abs are weakened and you have very little control over them. The wrap can help give you that extra bit of support.”

SARAH ELLIS DUVALL, PHYSICAL THERAPIST

Is postpartum belly wrapping safe?

Postpartum belly wraps in and of themselves are completely safe. That said, women who use them improperly can end up doing more damage than good. There are two really important rules to keep in mind when you’re wearing your postpartum wrap:

1. Be careful not to cinch the wrap too tightly

Duvall says cinching the wrap too tightly is one of the worst things you can do to your postpartum body and the number one mistake many women make when wearing a postpartum wrap. Since many women are focused not just on recovery but on trying to get their bodies to “bounce back,” they tend to err on the side of taking the compression way too far. This is something to absolutely avoid doing, as it can lead to serious problems.

“Cinching the wrap too tightly can be a real concern,” says Duvall. “We have a pressure management system in our core, which has already been impacted by pregnancy and birth. If you cinch the wrap too tightly, the pressure has to go somewhere else, and the path of least resistance is your pelvic floor. This could result in prolapse (a bulge in your pelvic floor), which can take longer to rehab and recover from, so prevention is the best medicine. It is best to tighten it just enough to offer gentle support, but no tighter.”  

2. Don’t wear the wrap for longer than you really need to

A postpartum wrap can provide some much-needed support right after you give birth, but there is no reason to keep wearing one for an extended period of time.

“I do like to wean women off of them fairly quickly because of the risk to the pelvic floor,” Duvall says. “The concern is delaying our bodies and muscles from recovering on their own. Begin using your own muscles without support whenever you feel comfortable. The sooner you start to use your muscles again, the more quickly they will recover.”

The only way for your body to fully recover is to allow your muscles to begin to do the work. This doesn’t mean hitting the gym to do a serious ab workout. Your muscles will begin to recover by doing everyday tasks, like getting out of bed, getting off the couch, standing up, picking up your baby and other ordinary movements. It’s important to use your muscles, but not to overwork them.

How do postpartum belly wraps work?

The way that belly wraps work is pretty simple. They all go around your abdominal area, typically from the top of your hips to right underneath your breasts. They are designed to compress around that area in order to give you core support. Most also include the ability to wrap the band as loosely or as tightly as you need, but remember, not too tight!

Do postpartum belly wraps help with weight loss or body shaping?

Experts are quick to point out two things that a postpartum wrap will not do — contrary to the promises from ads you may see online.

“They do not help you lose weight after delivery, nor do they have any effect on body shape,” says Dr. Joseph Chappelle, an assistant professor of OB-GYN at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, and creator of the OB/GYN Podcast.

“They do not help you lose weight after delivery, nor do they have any effect on body shape.”

DR. JOSEPH CHAPPELLE, OB-GYN

“The most important contributors to postpartum weight loss are diet, exercise and breastfeeding,” says Chappelle. “I do have an issue with the marketing of these products at postpartum women for the sake of weight loss or body slimming.”

Duvall agrees and says that, while the wraps offer valuable support to weakened muscles, they should not be looked at as a quick way to get back in shape. There is simply no magic solution that will get you the body of your dreams after you give birth.

“A wrap is not a substitute for building muscle,” Duvall says. “It is not meant to create a smaller waist. It is meant to support muscles that are feeling unstable.”

When to start using a postpartum belly wrap

“I had my husband bring my Belly Bandit to the hospital,” says Heather Manford, a mom of twins from Pittsburgh. “I wanted to put it on as soon as I could, because a friend told me that it would be helpful after my C-section. For me, it was a great source of support and I’m glad I had it right away.”

Experts agree that it is completely fine to begin wearing a postpartum belly wrap right after birth. In fact, that is when it’s likely to provide the most needed support.

“Wearing it immediately is OK if you feel like it’s helping to provide support,” says Duvall.

What’s the limit per day for wearing one?

According to Dr. Chappelle, there is no real time limit on how long you can keep the belly wrap on during the day. “They can be worn for as long as they are comfortable,” she says.

When to avoid a belly wrap altogether

Make sure you get the OK from your doctor before you start using any wrap. Some women who have had serious complications during birth, such as preeclampsia, may be told to stay away from wrapping their bellies. If you have C-section complications, your doctor may not want you to wear one either.

“Women with a separation or infection of their cesarean incision should speak with their providers before wearing a wrap or binder,” says Chappelle. “In my practice, I advise women not to wear them in these situations, as they can make those conditions worse.”

Can a postpartum wrap help with diastasis recti?

During pregnancy, your uterus grows, which in turn causes your stomach muscles to separate to create more room. Diastasis recti is a condition in which those stomach muscles remain separated even after pregnancy. Although you may have heard it suggested that postpartum wraps can help with diastasis recti, experts don’t agree.

“There is minimal research on wraps and diastasis recti, although studies have shown that physical therapy is better than wraps at improving diastasis,” Chappelle says. “The wraps can still be used for comfort but should not be used as a treatment for diastasis.”

“Diastasis recti is a very specific condition that can’t be fixed by a belly wrap,” says Duvall. “You’re dealing with a vulnerable area in your body that needs time to heal. Wrapping might help you prevent doing damage, but your body needs to heal on its own time. Go to a physical therapist if you need help with diastasis recti. Look for someone who has experience working with diastasis recti or pelvic floor issues to assist you in person.”

“Diastasis recti is a very specific condition that can’t be fixed by a belly wrap.”

SARAH ELLIS DUVALL, PHYSICAL THERAPIST

Donna Radall, a mom of three from Rensselaer, New York, says that she suffered from diastasis recti and wishes she hadn’t waited so long to seek help.

“I was doing a lot of things that I thought were going to help, including a few different wraps, but I was flying blind,” Radall says. “[My pilates instructor] suggested a physical therapist that she knew, and I made way more progress that way. Honestly, I’m just grateful I didn’t hurt myself worse during that time.”

The Best Postpartum Belly Wraps for Support ... - Parents

What postpartum belly binding can do for your post-baby ...

Comments
  • 0
Get in Touch
Guest Posts