Having a baby is an interesting experience full of heady high highs and very low lows. Some of the highs include looking at that sweet smile just as your peaceful newborn is about to doze off to sleep and one, of the many, lows is a peek down at your belly as you get dressed to leave the hospital and realise that – oh you still look pregnant.
Enter the words postpartum belly binding into life. And dear reader those three words, if you’ve ever been through it, are enough to send real shivers down your spine. Particularly if you’ve just delivered that bundle of joy in your arms through a c-section whose post-operative pain which is so strong the pain prescription comes with a ‘miss-a-pill- and-you’ll-pay-the- price fine print.
Postpartum binding is the act of using a binder to wrap the post pregnancy belly in an effort to force it to flatten back into place. There are many belly binders available, that cone in a variety of styles (postpartum belts, girdles that have different type of closures form velcro to hooks and zippers)
According to Dr Sarah Ellis Duvall, physical therapist and founder of core exercise solutions, “A post-partum wrap can be used to help support your abdominal muscles directly in the first few weeks after you give birth, when those muscles are at their weakest. They can also provide light compressions to help your uterus shrink back, although that will happen naturally anyway. Many moms use postpartum wraps after vaginal births but they can be especially helpful to women who gave birth via c-section. After you have a c-section your muscles are weakened and you have very little control over them.”
While the Duvalls description of the above suffices, it’s far from how many women carry out and experience belly binding. Often the wraps are tight because we are under the impression that the tighter it is the better its actually working- Think Kim Kardashian Met Gala 2019 waist thin. Yes, google that image and you’ll see why the words belly binding send shivers down women’s spines.
Duvall shares that binding too tight is actually a mistake. “Cinching the wrap too tightly can be a real concern. We have a pressure management system in our core, which has already been impacted by pregnancy and birth. If you cinch the wrap too tightly, the pressure has to go somewhere else, and the path of least resistance is your pelvic floor. This could result in prolapse (a bulge in your pelvic floor), which can take longer to rehab and recover from, so prevention is the best medicine. It is best to tighten it just enough to offer gentle support, but no tighter,” warns Duvall.
But tying too tight is just one of the myths associated with belly binding. Here are a few others:
That wearing the belly band longer, even sleeping in it, will bring better results
“A postpartum wrap can provide much needed support right after birth, but there is no need to keep wearing one for an extended period of time. I do like to wean women off them fairly quickly because of the risk to the pelvic floor. The concern is delaying our bodies and muscles from recovering on their own. Begin using your own muscles without support whenever you feel comfortable. The sooner you start to use your muscles again, the more quickly they will recover”, explains Duvall
That belly binding is safe for everyone
“Make sure that you are cleared by your doctor before you start bellybinding
Some women who have had serious complications during birth, such as preeclampsia, may be told to stay away from wrapping their bellies. If you have C-section complications, your doctor may not want you to wear one either”, says Dr. Joseph Chappelle, an assistant professor of OB-GYN at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York.
Believing belly binding can bring about weight loss or change the shape of your body
Contrary to the thousands of adverts selling us belly binders, belly binding will not miraculous deliver weight loss and an hour glass shape. They do not help you lose weight after delivery, nor do they have any effect on body shape. The most important contributors to postpartum weight loss are diet, exercise and breastfeeding”, explains Chappelle.
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