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The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Belly Bands, Maternity Belts and Pregnancy Belts

by SRC Health

As with all health-related products, the key to making the right decision for yourself, especially during the period of pregnancy, is knowledge and understanding. We strongly recommend consulting a Women’s Health Care professional like a physiotherapist that specializes in pelvic health who can provide an individually tailored approach to your pregnancy and postpartum needs. So, what are Belly Bands, Maternity Belts and Pregnancy Belts?

Belly Belts and Maternity Belts

Belly Belts are also sometimes incorrectly referred to as Belly Bands, however there is a difference between the two.

a) Belly Belts are designed to carry your belly weight. Not as lightweight as belly bands because they hold up the pregnant belly and take the pressure off your back.

b) Belly Bands on the other hand, according to "Pregnant and Perfect" provide you with proper ‘coverage’. When your pants stop fitting, the fabric you place around yourself are called a belly bands. Huggies define belly bands as “an item of clothing and looks like a tube top or boob tube.” It is a wide circular strip of fabric, which is seamless and knitted; much like a pair of pantyhose is woven. Made from fibres like Cotton + Elastane/Spandex or Lycra, belly bands stretch in order to stay up and on and also to “grow” with your abdomen as your pregnant belly expands.

Because the term “belly belt” does not specify whether it is for pregnancy or post-natal use in the same way “maternity belts” don’t, these terms are ambiguous, and you need to work out what stage of your maternity journey they are for; during pregnancy or for recovery after birth. So maternity belts and belly belts can be either a Pregnancy Support Belt or a Post Pregnancy Tummy Wrap. Here we will only focus on the pregnancy support belts and belly bands.

Pregnancy Belts

Pregnancy Belts clearly state that they are for wear during pregnancy hence making it easier to learn about the pros and cons for your specific circumstances before consulting your health care professional.

Let's dive into the Good, The Bad and The Ugly of pregnancy and maternity belts and examine the most important first - the ugly - a warning that every mother should be aware of and then progress to the bad and good features and benefits of these products.

The Ugly – Why you need to take care when it comes to wearing pre-natal Belly Belts or Maternity Belts or Belly Bands

Belly Bands in the true definition of the term are no more than stretchy bits of fabric to provide the coverage over your belly when your pants stop fitting you. So they have no therapeutic purpose whatsoever. This is also confused by brands and products that call themselves “belly bands” yet are providing pregnancy support belts that do have a therapeutic purpose. 

Pregnancy Belly Belts or Maternity Belts, if used for too long a period of time or incorrectly, fall into the same category as Shapewear which by definition is designed to change shape of your body with high levels of compression. Here are some medical opinions discussing the dangers of belly belts:

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 favourite “waist trainers” that can, if done up too tightly, compress and squeeze internal organs and ribs."

Dr. Christopher Smith also points out that there is some concern that wearing a maternity support belt / pregnancy support belt during pregnancy may impair blood circulation, and negatively impact pelvic floor and bowel function. He recommends women wear pregnancy support belts for short periods at a time to prevent dependency and encourages them to use maternity support belts in conjunction with core muscle strengthening programs. And it's never too late or too early to start improving your pelvic floor and core strength.

You can also become overly dependent on the pregnancy belt which is the exact opposite of what you should be trying to achieve. “Activate don’t de-activate” is often heard advice of many women’s health physiotherapists as well as the founder of SRC Health, Sinead O’Donovan who developed 2 ranges of gentle grade medical compression garments; one for during pregnancy and another for recovery after delivery.

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.

London-based physiotherapist Sammy Margo, a spokeswoman for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, explains: 'What I say to my patients is “use it or lose it”. 'What we find is that women who wear maternity shapewear when they have no physical need can weaken muscles in their bottoms, stomachs and lower backs. 'After the birth of their baby, they are more likely to be injured as they lift and care for their newborns' she warns.

So please ask your doctor how to wear your belly belt to avoid putting pressure on your uterus, and only wear a belly belt for a couple of hours a day, never wear a pregnancy belt continually. Alternatively, there's always a more comfortable / practical alternative, one where you don't have to worry about deactivating your muscles that is discussed straight after The Bad. 

The Bad – Why wearing a Belly Belt, Maternity Belt or Pregnancy Belt may not be your optimal solution

The issue with most belly belts, even those that have stretchable inserts, is that they:

  • do not move with your body,
  • they can feel restrictive and need constant readjustment which can be frustrating to some (and perfectly ok for others).
  • 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.
  • belly bands as stated previously will simply not deliver the support that is required to assist you with issues like lower back pain or pelvic girdle pain – they were not designed to nor do they have the right amount of compression in the right places. 
  • many pregnancy belts, belly belts and 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.

We recommend you 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.

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 (PGP)1,2. Women with one or both conditions can find it difficult to cope with and participate in everyday activities. 

Usually prescribed for extra postural support for severe symptoms of Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and Pelvic Instability it can be a great addition to the SRC Pregnancy Shorts or Leggings that assist with less severe symptoms of PGP.

Here are a number of good reasons to wear pregnancy belts during your pregnancy:

  • Relieving pain in joints, muscles and lower back
  • Assisting with the sacroiliac joint pain and hip joint pain
  • Decrease the discomfort and provide support to the pelvic area during various activities by stabilising the pelvis and relieving pressure from the lower back.
  • Help improve your posture

According to aforementioned Dr. Smith, obstetrician and gynaecologist, maternity belts offer additional comfort during daily activities, they reduce soreness associated with abdominal wall expansion (Abdominal Separation or DRAM) in the late trimesters.

SRC Pregnancy Compression Garments

With 12 years’ experience under our belt, figuratively speaking, we know a thing or two about the industry and how to assist mothers deal with the most common conditions during pregnancy.

Designed by women for women in consultation with an obstetrician, the SRC Pregnancy compression garments, maternity leggings and shorts, address the majority of the most common conditions during and after pregnancy. 

They are more expensive but also present a more versatile and functional investment. They are a purpose made medical grade compression garment (leggings graduated 4mmHg to 15mmHG) can be worn as outerwear or as an undergarment and can be worn 24 hours a day without deactivating your muscles which as described above presents a real challenge with Pregnancy Belts and Belly Belts of all types. 

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. Designed to be worn under regular clothes and most importantly comfortable, SRC Pregnancy Shorts and Leggings will assist you in getting through the demands of work and exercise and aid in reduction of leg swelling, they can be worn from 12 weeks, until term.

See why physiotherapist Anna Scammell recommends SRC Pregnancy garments. 

And here are just some of the things our customers have to say about our pregnancy garments: (you can read many more reviews from verified buyers on our website)

"Have found the src pregnancy shorts to be very helpful for my pelvic girdle pain. Now not worried about going for walks."

"Absolute game changer! I wish I got the shorts sooner, and currently in my 3rd pregnancy & chasing two toddlers too! These shorts have provided wonderful support for me to continue enjoying my pregnancy as I go into the third trimester!"

"Amazing. Definitely helps with back strain and the pain from symphasis pubis dysfunction and pelvic girdle"

"Great product. Started wearing the mini over the bump shorts at 22 weeks and felt near instant relief from SIJ pain and an aching lower back."

"Great compression. Definitely pays to measure up correctly, as having the correct size can create the compression that you need otherwise they don’t serve their purpose. Have lived in these since they arrived!!"

"Worth the money. Gave SO much relief for vulvar varicose veins. A total game changer in a good way!"

"Comfort & Confidence. I lived and loved my SRC Pregnancy full length over the belly tights. I felt secure, comfortable and confident making my belly shaped perfectly and dressing to a growing belly easy."

 

Some women combine a pregnancy belt and their SRC Pregnancy Compression Shorts /Leggings. The benefit for women with severe pain is that they can wear their Shorts/Leggings 24 hours a day without causing atrophy due to prolonged muscle deactivation and during periods where they need to be on their feet a lot, they can combine both products by adding the pregnancy belt for additional support.

The major differences between SRC Pregnancy garments and Pregnancy Belts, Maternity Belts and Belly Belts of all types, can be summarised as follows:

Pregnancy Belts, Maternity Belts and Belly Belts:

  • Are not able to be worn safely day and night whilst providing pain relief as they do not have gentle medical grade compression. To get the right level of compression you are relying on your ‘feel’ potentially risking muscle deactivation and the problems associated with the belt providing a potentially dangerous level of compression
  • Can’t treat multiple conditions like the SRC pregnancy garments that utilise Anatomical Support Panels to help with Lower Back Pain, Vulvar Variscosities, Pelvic Instability and Pelvic Girdle Pain.
  • Do not have True Cross Compression - multi-layered support panels that provide consistent and anatomically targeted compression during movement.
  • Do not have moisture wicking fabric that eliminates odor.
  • Do not have flat lock seams that increase comfort and don’t aggravate wounds.
  • Rely on adjustable Velcro zips and clips making them less comfortable and convenient which in turn lowers what the health care industry calls the "compliance rate" with many women simply not wearing the belt at all.
  • Are not a multi-purpose garment that is ideal for exercise, work and everyday wear as well as for aesthetic reasons under fitted clothing.

In short, the SRC maternity compression leggings and shorts have all the benefits of belly bands and belts with no disadvantages listed above and we have the science to prove it.

Quasi‐Experimental Study To Evaluate The Use Of Compression Garments To Manage Prenatal Pelvic And Low Back Pain, from Bond University, concluded that SRC Pregnancy Shorts are effective, thermally safe and a non-pharmacological option for prevention and management of pain during pregnancy.

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.

References:

  1. The Effect of Abdominal Support on Functional Outcomes in Patients Following Major Abdominal Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Volume 62 Issue 3, Summer 2010, pp. 242-253. Oren Cheifetz, S. Deborah Lucy, Tom J. Overend, Jean Crowe.
  2. Effect of Abdominal Exercises versus Abdominal Supporting Belt on Post-Partum Abdominal Efficiency and Rectus Separation. International Journal of Medical, Health, Biomedical, Bioengineering and Pharmaceutical Engineering Vol:7, No:1, 2013. Hanan S. El-Mekawy, Abeer M. Eldeeb, Marzouk A. El- Lythy, and Adel F. El-Begawy

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