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 Belts, 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 is called a belly band. Huggies define the belly band 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, they 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.
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.
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.
Here are a number of good reasons to wear pregnancy belts during your pregnancy:
According to Dr. Christopher 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.
Because Belly Belts and Maternity Belts could also refer to post-partum belly belts, or post-partum girdles for after delivery, we’ll have a look at the benefits they can deliver after you give birth to your baby:
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. 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. 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 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.
Hanan et al, 2013, looked at the effects of abdominal exercises versus abdominal supporting belt on abdominal efficiency and inter recti separation following vaginal delivery. 30 women particpated in the study. The results showed that there was no statistical difference in waist circumference between both groups, participation in abdominal exercise program produced a pronounced reduction in waist/hip ratio, and inter-recti separation and also caused significant increase in abdominal muscles strength (peak torque, maximum repetition total work and average power) higher than the use of abdominal belt.
The Ugly – Why you need to take care when it comes to wearing pre-natal or post-natal Belly Belts or Maternity Belts
Belly Belts and 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.
Aforementioned 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. 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.
After their initial launch and development of the maternity compression for postpartum recovery 11 years ago , SRC Health now have the world’s largest range of maternity compression garments. They are more expensive but also present a more versatile and functional investment. Their purpose made, gentle medical grade compression garment of 4mmHg to 15mmHG can be worn as both outerwear as well as an undergarment and can be worn 24 hours per day without deactivating your muscles. Designed by women for women in consultation with an obstetrician, the SRC Pregnancy and Recovery garments address the majority of the most common conditions during and after pregnancy.
Shapewear that’s too tight may lead to health problems, says neurologist Orly Avitzur, MD, medical advisor for Consumer Reports. "Any time we put on really tight garments we take the risk of compressing organs or nerves." Avitzur says that in her practice, she has had patients complain of tingling and numbness in the front to outer thigh region, from hip to knee. Avitzur has linked the cause back to restrictive clothing like shapewear or skinny jeans.
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, adjustable 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.
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 per 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.
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. They provide the support to move more freely after delivery and make lifting, feeding, bathing and caring for your baby easier. With no adjustable buttons, velcro or zips, the garment is like a second skin with no need to constantly adjust while wearing. Recommended by health care professionals for improving mobility and pelvic muscle function post-partum these garments are ideal for exercise and for aesthetic reasons under fitted clothing. They can be worn the day after delivery and for as long as they provide benefit.
Cheifetz et al, 2010, concluded that "Elasticized abdominal binders provide a non-invasive intervention for enhancing recovery of walk performance, controlling pain and distress, and improving patients' experience following major abdominal surgery."
Pregnancy Belts, Maternity Belts and Belly Belts:
In short, the SRC maternity compression leggings and shorts have all the benefits of the belly belts with no disadvantages listed above.
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.
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.
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