To Wear or Not to Wear… that is the question…
There are a lot of questions and concerns around wearing belly bands after giving birth. Along with the questions and concerns, there are a lot of opinions as well. What I’d like to first start off with is: IT IS YOUR DECISION. I am only going to be providing information based on the research, my expertise, and my experience!
So, firstly, what is a belly band? And what is belly binding?
It is a wrap that is made to be worn after giving birth and is said to “support” your body after childbirth. The band is either pulled up around your waist, or wrapped around your waist, with good tightness to assist with support around your abdominal wall/trunk. The thought is that if there is a way to offer support postpartum in the abdominal wall, things will come back together easier.
This is the perfect place for me to introduce myself as a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, the expert in muscles, bones, ligaments, and changes your body goes through during pregnancy and on your postpartum journey. I answer this question for my clients EVERYDAY and I LOVE being able to use the evidence, client stories, and even my own professional opinion.
Typically, clients will begin looking for or discussing belly binding after giving birth, but we should be discussing it during pregnancy so we can go ahead and purchase the correct product, know our wearing schedule and be able to appropriately put it on without symptoms! But it isn’t too late for the new mamas out there! You can still learn what you need to know now!
Belly binding is just the act of wearing a belly band! You wear the belly band for a certain amount of time, for a length of time, and then you are supposed to be feel more supported and put together.
As a Pelvic PT I would be doing you a disservice if I did not first state that it is possible to wear for too long and put on too tight which can cause pelvic floor problems. We will discuss that in our article.
Why would you wear one?
Wearing a support belt/belly band can assist with back pain or feelings of “falling apart,” “feeling loose,” and so on. Be mindful that you can still wear a belly band after a c-section! It actually may be more beneficial for a c-section than a vaginal delivery! There is more consideration on what type of belt/band you purchase when you have a c-section so you make sure to choose one that will not rub or push on your scar to cause irritation.
It has been shown that the belt can assist with pain management and can improve overall healing, but it has also shown low compliance with wear due to inability to know how to put on, discomfort with wearing, The lack of compliance is due to improper guidance and education from your healthcare provider on how to use and when to use and how long to use… etc. I’m sure many of you know the feeling… you ask your provider about it, but there isn’t a whole lot of information given, so you go home, don’t know what to do with it, and then just don’t do it.
That’s okay! It is not NECESSARY to belly bind for proper healing either!
If you are experiencing low back pain, pelvic pain, venous insufficiencies, or need some posture help, a support belt/belly band may be of benefit for you. The truth is, research is limited in PROVING that.
Wearing a band/belt can decrease your pain postpartum from the changes your body goes through. It adds a little compression to help you feel like things are back together and to guide your body on where it needs to get back to. There have been few adverse effects noted in the evidence from wearing a belt including intolerance.
I, personally, do not recommend a support belt/belly band for any client who has a diagnosis of a pelvic organ prolapse (specifically symptomatic) and that is because the band, if pulled too tight or if causing too much compression, can increase pressure in the pelvic floor which may contribute to more symptoms.
Tips for Wearing a Band/Belt
Be sure you do not pull too tight. Unfortunately this is the biggest mistake women make and one of the most detrimental ones. This can contribute to increased pressure or cause increased symptoms if you do pull too tight around your waist. You should have it tight enough to feel as if it is supporting you, but you should not feel uncomfortable, be experiencing difficulty breathing, or be unable to move.
Be sure you do not wear it longer than what is necessary. There is no reason to NEED this support for a long period of time and if you do wear it for too long, there is a potential risk for your pelvic health of causing or contributing to other pelvic floor dysfunction. The support is a very short term thing and should never be worn all day everyday!
I tell clients you really only want to wear it for the first 2 weeks unless your pelvic PT instructs you otherwise.
How soon is too soon to begin wearing it
You can start wearing your belt/band immediately. It is totally fine to add the extra compression immediately after delivery/c-section. However, if you’ve had complications of any sort, your doctor/midwife may state they do not want you wearing one. You always want to get cleared to wear it first!
How long should I wear it
There is no right or wrong answer here. The truth is, you can wear it for as long as it is comfortable. BUT be mindful that the more you wear the belt, the less your muscles are working. You do not want to hinder your muscles from turning back on and being able to do their job. I typically recommend the following:
Wear for no more than 6 hours per day, never at night, and for 2 weeks max.
This allows your muscles to have the opportunity to turn on and get stronger while also allowing your body time to heal during this transition.
After the 2 weeks, you should work with a pelvic floor specialist to be sure you are doing the right movements for your core!
Will it prevent diastasis recti or a hernia
We cannot clearly state. The research shows that physical therapy is a better option than a band/belt to prevent these things and to treat these things. At this time, we do not know if the belt/band is a good alternative for prevention. My professional opinion would be no, that it is just a support for pain and helping you transition, that to prevent either of the above diagnosis you need to be under the care of a PT.
My Favorite Bands/Belts
www.bellybandit.com Seriously the best option I’ve found that clients love. They have options for pregnancy, postpartum, and even c-section.
When searching for the proper one, be sure you shop based on comfort, what specific support you need, and material!
The best way to know is to have an assessment with a pelvic floor physical therapist!!
I hope this was able to answer the majority of your questions around belly binding and if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact met at:
Email: [email protected]
I’d love to offer resources and support however you deserve and need!
Dr. Kaylee, PT, DPT
Owner of Down There Docs
Szkwara, J.M.; Milne, N.; Hing, W.; Pope, R. Effectiveness, Feasibility, and Acceptability of Dynamic Elastomeric Fabric Orthoses (DEFO) for Managing Pain, Functional Capacity, and Quality of Life during Prenatal and Postnatal Care: A Systematic Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 2408.
Morino S, Ishihara M, Umezaki F, et al. The effects of pelvic belt use on pelvic alignment during and after pregnancy: a prospective longitudinal cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019;19(1):305. Published 2019 Aug 22. doi:10.1186/s12884-019-2457-6