SUMMARY: A pregnancy belt and a belly band are popular generic names for a category of products that can help you cope with some of the challenges of pregnancy. However, they do have drawbacks that you should be aware of. While all belly belt/band products are safe when used according to manufacturer guidelines and/or your health care practitioner directions, the key to making the right decision for yourself, especially during the period of pregnancy, is knowledge and understanding, which we aim to provide in this blog.
We’ll explore the various options available in the market, and shed light on how compression garments, such as the SRC Pregnancy leggings and shorts, provide a beneficial alternative for many customers as well as why so many women’s pelvic health physiotherapists recommend them to their clients over a pregnancy belt or a belly band. While a belly band or a pregnancy belt can be useful for many women, it is important to consider individual preferences. If in any doubt, always consult with a healthcare 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.
One hormone released during pregnancy is Relaxin which softens ligaments and other soft tissues throughout the pregnancy and throughout breastfeeding. As the ligaments soften, the underlying joint becomes more mobile, potentially leading to pain of varying degrees of severity.
To alleviate the strain on the body and support the growing belly, many expectant mothers turn to a pregnancy belt or a belly band
A pregnancy belt is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a belly band and vice versa. With so many brands in the market competing for attention, it can be confusing as the original product naming becomes less relevant. However, for the sake of differentiation between these 2 appliances we will use the traditional definitions:
a) A pregnancy belt is designed to carry your belly weight so as to offer support and relief to the lower back, hips, and abdominal muscles during pregnancy. In comparison to the belly band, it is less lightweight and can be more rigid as it is meant to hold up the pregnant belly and take the pressure off your back. They are also typically worn over clothing. A pregnancy belt is usually narrower and more strap-like than a belly band, especially the part that lies across the front of the body. Pregnancy belts are also referred to as belly belts, pregnancy braces, or straps.
Finally, because the generic terms “belly band, belly belt and maternity belt or maternity wrap” do not specify whether they are for pregnancy or for post-natal use, these terms are ambiguous we will try to provide you with a general rule of thumb:
Terms belly band and belly belt - tend to be for use during pregnancy which is the focus of this article.
Terms maternity belt, maternity wrap, tummy wrap – tend to be products designed for postpartum
A pregnancy belt or a belly band (terms that are being used interchangeably) is a device that wraps around your lower abdomen and back to provide support and compression during pregnancy. It can help relieve some of the common discomforts of pregnancy, such as back pain, pelvic pain, and poor posture. However, a belly band / pregnancy belt is not suitable for everyone, and it may have some drawbacks as well. Here are some factors to consider before deciding whether a maternity belt is right for you before we dive into the details.
A belly band in the original definition of the product is no more than a stretchy bit of fabric to provide the coverage over your belly when your pants stop fitting you. So, it has no therapeutic purpose. This is further confused by some brands having the term “belly band” in their name yet providing a pregnancy belt that does have a therapeutic purpose! So going forward we will use the terms “pregnancy belt and belly band” interchangeably.
If used for too long a period of time or incorrectly, a pregnancy belt / belly band, falls into the same category as shapewear which by definition is designed to change the shape of your body with high levels of compression.4,5
Here are some medical opinions discussing the dangers of pregnancy belts or bands that may act like shapewear if worn incorrectly by their user:
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:
"Shapewear worn during pregnancy that fits too tight or puts unwanted pressure on different areas of the body is never a good idea…. Besides creating a lot of discomfort, it can also cause pain in different parts of the body, reduced blood circulation, heartburn and yeast infections… No pregnancy or postpartum shapewear clothing should overly compress and squeeze internal organs including ribs, abdominal muscles, liver, spleen and intestines”4
Dr. Ross is most concerned about the Kardashian style waist trainers. “When the waist trainer is tied up too tightly, it could cause rib fractures, limit your mobility, affect your breathing capacity, restrict your abdominal muscles and affect your posture” 4
“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, in the article titled "How to Choose and Use Shapewear" on WebMD6.
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 deactivate” is often heard advice of many women’s health physiotherapists as well as the founder of SRC Health, Sinead O’Donovan who developed a range of gentle medical grade compression garments; for different stages of a woman's life.
The commonly accepted advice about belly belts and bands means that you shouldn’t be wearing it all day long every day. Wearing it just for 2 to 3 hours every day is best. A pregnancy belt or belly band that supports your stomach and bottom all day, will take the load away from muscles and ligaments and may end up weakening your lower body muscles causing muscle wastage.
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."7
So please ask your health care provider on how to wear your pregnancy belt or belly band to avoid putting pressure on your uterus. and Only wear a pregnancy 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 a belly band / pregnancy belt, even those that have stretchable inserts, is that they:
We recommend you 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.
Usually prescribed for extra postural support for severe symptoms of Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and Pelvic Instability, here are several good reasons to wear a belly band/ pregnancy belt during your pregnancy:
Although research has found 83% of women with Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) or Lower Back Pain (LBP) LBP experience reduced posterior pelvic pain when wearing a pelvic support belt, with only 12% experiencing no relief, and 5% reporting they felt worse (Depledge et al., 2005) other factors need to be considered when prescribing a pregnancy belt / belly band, given the target population is pregnant women. These factors include:
For those seeking an alternative to a belly band/pregnancy belt, SRC pregnancy leggings and shorts have gained recognition for their enhanced support, muscle activation, versatility, and tailored fit.
With 15 years’ experience under our belt, figuratively speaking, we know a thing or two about the industry and how to assist mothers to deal with the most common conditions during pregnancy.
Designed by women for women in consultation with an obstetrician, the SRC Pregnancy shorts and leggings are endorsed by the Australian Physiotherapy Association and Australian College of Midwives.
A Quasi‐Experimental Study To Evaluate The Use Of Compression Garments To Manage Prenatal Pelvic And Low Back Pain by Szkwara J, Hing W, Pope R, Rathbone E, Bond University, Robina, Australia, November 2017 concluded that:
"SRC Pregnancy Shorts are effective, thermally safe and a non-pharmacological option for prevention and management of pain during pregnancy."
Hundreds of women's health care professionals around the world recommend SRC compression garments for pregnancy and postpartum recovery, like Anna Scammel, who is a Masters-trained Women's Health & Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist from The Whole Mother in Sydney, who helps optimise your physical health during pregnancy and recovery. Here’s a 90 second video explaining why she favours SRC Pregnancy Leggings and Shorts over a pregnancy belt or belly band.
SRC Pregnancy compression shorts and leggings are more expensive but also provide worthwhile benefits:
"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 symphysis 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 belly band/belt and their SRC Pregnancy Compression Shorts /Leggings. The benefit for women with severe pain is that they can wear their SRC 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 belly band/belt:
In short, the SRC compression leggings and shorts have all the benefits of a belly band or pregnancy belt with no disadvantages listed above and we have the science to prove it.
A holistic approach to management of these 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 your pregnancy journey.