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 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 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.
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 issue with most belly belts, even those that have stretchable inserts, is that they:
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.
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:
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.
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. Their purpose made, gentle medical grade compression garment (leggings graduated 4mmHg to 15mmHG) can be worn as both outerwear as well 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.
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.
Pregnancy Belts, Maternity Belts and Belly Belts:
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.
A 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.