What post-pregnancy compressions tights actually do?

By Krissy Pinn, XOthree Active

No matter how much or how little weight you gained during pregnancy, your body simply will not be the same straight after you have a baby. The market is crowded with post-pregnancy garment that “smooth” this and “conceal” that – which may help you fit back into your pre-baby clothes but don’t help to actively repair, lose weight and tone your body.

Post-pregnancy compression tights, on the other hand, do more than just conceal your new lumps and bumps. They actually help promote healing after pregnancy as well as provide support for abdominal muscle recovery. Targeted compression provides support to legs, lower back and the pelvic floor muscles and with the added pressure to the skins surface, this then increases sensory awareness to improve improved posture, agility, mobility and stability.

One of the main reasons I recommend compression tights to all of my post-natal clients is because a high-quality garment will provide comfortable compression to your hips and pelvic floor. Why is this so important? Well it all comes down to proprioception – which is your brains ability to sense where your body is regarding position, motion, and equilibrium. It’s your body’s awareness of where it is in space. Experts say that providing compression to a joint or muscle can improve the proprioception of the stabilising ligaments or tendons and the muscles, which will then help them to “fire” more efficiently and effectively. Therefore, they serve as a “gentle” reminder to engage and activate the correct muscles which will help promote healing, strengthen and speed up recovery process.

The science of compression

Compression tights create graduated pressure against your muscles, with the pressure being highest at the towards the ankles and decreasing as the garment goes up the legs. This constricts the blood vessels, which serves two very important purposes.

First of all, blood moves faster when the vessels are smaller, giving you better circulation. Better circulation means faster delivery of the oxygen and nutrients your muscles need to heal and faster removal of the enzymes that cause inflammation, fluid retention and soreness.

Secondly, the fact that compression tights provide greater pressure at the ankle than the thigh, forces your body to work against gravity, pumping fluid out of the limb. This reverses the normal tendency for fluid to pool in your ankles and lower legs, which would otherwise cause swelling and varicose veins.

Benefits of post-pregnancy compression tights

Because post-pregnancy compression tights are specifically designed to target the body issues women worry about most after giving birth, they deliver a greater range of benefits than your typical compression gear for athletes. Key benefits include:

  • Abdominal support: Post-pregnancy compression tights feature specially designed panels to provide cross compression and support to your lower abdominal muscles and your pelvic muscles. It is important that the front panel is seam-free, that way you can wear the tights comfortably even if you have had a C-section delivery
  • Smaller belly: Most post-pregnancy compression tights will not provide the same level of support as abdominal binders that are specifically designed for post-surgery recovery. However, they do provide enough gentle support to help the uterus return to its normal size quicker
  • Lower back support: You probably had back pain during pregnancy, due to the decrease in core activation and loss of muscle strength in your key stabilizing muscles that normally help with posture. Post-pregnancy will be no different, until you rebuild those very important transvers. Wearing compression tights will help replace the core support you’re missing to take the stress off your back and relieve pain or soreness
  • Reduced swelling: A certain amount of swelling in your hands, legs, ankles, and feet is expected and natural after having a baby. Why? First of all, women produce about 50 percent more blood during pregnancy. Some of this blood will remain in your system after the delivery. Secondly, you will still have high levels of the hormone progesterone in your system. This hormone can cause fluid retention and sodium retention. While post-partum swelling should subside on its own in about a week, it can be very uncomfortable in the meantime. Post-pregnancy compression tights will encourage better circulation in your legs to help reduce swelling, relieve tired legs and achy feet, and improve comfort
  • Better vein health: Post-partum swelling and circulation problems have the potential to cause unsightly varicose veins as well as serious health problems such as blood clots or deep vein thrombosis. Compression tights will improve circulation to help prevent or reduce these problems
  • Support for exercise: Once you have got the “all clear” from your GP, you will be ready to start re-introducing gentle exercise back into your life. Wearing compression tights during your workouts will improve circulation and oxygen delivery to your legs during exercise. They will also help provide extra stability to your joints, which will have become more loose and elastic during pregnancy. Some tights can reduce fatigue during running or walking by reducing the microtrauma to muscles that would otherwise be caused by the vibrations of your feet hitting the ground. Also referring back to proprioception – compression tights will be a “gentle” reminder for you to activate your hip stabilizing muscles and pelvic floor during movement, which is every important when getting back into exercise to help form the correct body movement patterns
  • Better post-exercise recovery: Compression tights improve circulation to carry away lactic acid and other byproducts that muscles normally release after a tough workout. This will help reduce soreness after exercise, so you can work harder and see results faster
  • Body shaping: Post-pregnancy compression tights will slim and shape your lower body for a smooth silhouette. This will help you feel more confident in your appearance after baby so you can get out and enjoy all the activities you love.

When to wear them

Post-pregnancy compression tights are generally worn starting from four to eight weeks after delivery. So if you’re expecting, don’t hesitate to pick out a pair now so you’ll have them on hand for a faster, more comfortable post-baby recovery.

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Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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