The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Maternity Belly Belts
By SRC Health
As with all health-related products, especially during pregnancy, the key to making the right decision is knowledge. Consulting a women’s health care professional like a Women’s Health Physiotherapist is always a good idea. So, what are Belly Belts, Maternity Belts and Pregnancy Belts?
Belly Belts and Maternity Belts
Because the terms “belly belt” and “maternity belt” do not specify whether it is for pregnancy or post-natal use, they are ambiguous, and you need to work out what stage of your maternity journey they are for; during pregnancy or for recovery after birth. Maternity belts and belly belts can be either a Pregnancy Support Belt or a Post Pregnancy Tummy Wrap. Some claim to do both.
The Good – Why You should Wear a Belly Belt, Maternity Belt or Pregnancy Belt:
Approximately 70% of all pregnant women suffer low back pain and up to 45% exhibit symptoms of Pelvic Girdle Pain. Women with one or both conditions can find it difficult to cope with and participate in everyday activities.
Good reasons to wear pregnancy belts during your pregnancy:
- Relieving pain in joints, muscles and lower back
- Assisting with pain of the sacroiliac joint and hip joint
- Decreasing the discomfort and providing support to the pelvic area during various activities by stabilising the pelvis and relieving pressure from the lower back
- To help improve posture
According to Dr. Christopher Smith, obstetrician and gynaecologist, maternity belts offer additional comfort during daily activities, reducing soreness associated with abdominal wall expansion in the late trimesters.
Because Belly Belts and Maternity Belts could also refer to post-partum belly belts, or post-partum girdles for after delivery, the benefits they can deliver after birth are:
- Postpartum belly belt can help to speed up the recovery process by providing support to the abdominal muscles that have separated during pregnancy and encourage them to return to their pre-pregnancy state
- The post-partum maternity belt may also assist with better healing of your C-section scar
- Finally, it will provide stability and support to assist with your general mobility after delivery
The Bad – Why wearing a Belly Belt, Maternity Belt or Pregnancy Belt may not be your optimal solution:
The issue with most belly belts is that they do not move with your body, they can feel restrictive and need constant readjustment which can be frustrating to some. It’s a good idea to try one on and/or make sure you can get a refund if the product simply irritates you when you have to constantly readjust when sitting down or getting up. Pregnancy belts are not the most comfortable or flattering things to wear, especially if you are wearing them under anything that is fitted as they will show through.
Many maternity belts have hooks, loops or Velcro to adjust the belt and keep it in the right position and at the right tension, however this also means there is a chance of these catching and ripping your clothes.
The Ugly – Why you need to take wearing pre-natal or post-natal Belly Belts
Belly Belts fall into the same category as Shapewear which by definition are designed to change shape with high levels of compression being applied to your body. Here are some medical opinions:
- According to Sherry A. Ross, MD, author of “she-ology, The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period”, the benefits and risks for pregnant women depend on the maternity shapewear product, and how much you wear it. She goes on to say that: “Maternity shapewear that is too tight and puts too much pressure on the body is never a good idea. If you have trouble breathing, or you're in pain while wearing your shapewear, that's a sign that it's probably too tight for you". Discomfort, pain, reduced blood circulation and heartburn are some of potential issues from maternity shapewear that is too tight or worn for prolonged periods of time. Ross is most concerned about the Kardashian favorite “waist trainers” that can, if done up too tightly, compress and squeeze internal organs and ribs.
- Dr. Christopher Smith points out that there is some concern that wearing a maternity support belt during pregnancy may impair blood circulation, and negatively impact pelvic floor and bowel function. He recommends women wear belly bands for short periods at a time to prevent dependency and encourages them to use maternity support belts in conjunction with core muscle strengthening programs.
The commonly accepted advice about belly belts means that you shouldn’t be wearing it all day long every day. Wearing it just for two to three hours every day is best. If you were to wear it too long, you may end up weakening your lower body muscles causing muscle wastage: a garment that supports your stomach and bottom all day, every day, will take the load away from muscles and ligaments.
What are the alternatives to Belly Belts or Maternity Belts?
Purpose made compression garments are more expensive but may present a more versatile and functional investment for many pregnant and post-partum mums. They can be worn as outerwear as well as undergarments and may be worn 24 hours per day without deactivating your muscles.
SRC Health is a leading Australian brand that has been designed by women for women in consultation with an obstetrician. SRC Pregnancy Shorts and Leggings are ideal for providing pain relief during pregnancy and treating Low Back Pain, Pelvic Girdle Pain, Mild Varicose Veins, Sciatica and Vulvar Varicosities. They can be worn from 12 weeks, until term. Some women with severe pain combine a pregnancy belt with SRC Pregnancy Compression Shorts /Leggings. This prevents atrophy due to prolonged muscle deactivation during periods where they need to be on their feet a lot and require additional support. SRC Recovery Shorts and Leggings can assist women with fast tracking recovery after pregnancy by treating Abdominal Muscle Separation, Perineal Tears and stitches, C-Section wounds, Sciatica and Low Back Pain. With no adjustable buttons, velcro or zips, the garment doesn’t need to be constantly adjusted while wearing. Recommended by health care professionals for improving mobility and pelvic muscle function post-partum it’s ideal for exercise and for aesthetic reasons under fitted clothing. It can be worn the day after delivery and for as long as it provides benefit.
A holistic approach to management of these pre and post pregnancy conditions will produce the best outcome. Visiting a Women’s Health Physiotherapist can greatly assist as they will provide you with a tailored program which may include clinical Pilates as well as fit you for the right garment for supporting you through the pregnancy journey.
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.