Postpartum Girdle – Not a Safe Choice
Postpartum girdles are a hot trend these days. Many bloggers, celebrities or just regular women-next-door have used one in their postpartum recovery. Multiple brands have now rolled out this type of shapewear, sometimes also calling it a postpartum abdominal binder, postpartum corset, belly wrap etc. But whatever the name, the essential concept of the girdle remains the same: it is a piece of strong elastic fabric that squeezes your midsection. And, contrary to what media wants you to believe, it is not good for you.
Of course, there are instances when a postpartum girdle may be recommended to you by your healthcare provider, for a very specific health condition, in which case going with the advice of your trusted provider is the best choice you can make. But, if you are just looking to regain your waistline a little sooner, the girdle may not be the best option for you. In order to see why using a belly wrap is not a good idea lets see what it does to your body.
It weakens your core muscles.
As with most of the bodily functions, the “use it or lose it” principle applies here. When you don the abdominal girdle it takes most of the work of your core muscles on for itself. These muscles, which now do not need to work as hard to stabilize your body, begin to decondition and, as the result, become even weaker than they were immediately after delivery.
It may lead to back pain.
When we talk about core muscles abdominal muscles immediately come to mind. However, the deep muscles in your back are also part of the core muscle system that helps stabilize your body. As you wear the girdle, your back muscles will start to decondition just like your abdominal muscles will. This may lead to muscle imbalances and back pain when not wearing the binder.
It may interfere with deep abdominal muscle activation.
As your pregnancy progresses your body changes, your center of gravity shifts leading to changes in your posture and your muscle activation. During the postpartum period your muscles need to relearn to properly respond to the signals from your brain in order to go back to pre-pregnancy posture. The belly wrap, which is simply squeezing your abdomen and not doing anything for your posture, may interfere with this process.
Your pelvic floor muscles will be overstretched.
When you put on an abdominal binder it applies pressure to the outside of your abdomen and, in turn, causes the pressure inside your abdomen (also known as intraabdominal pressure) to increase. This increased pressure will cause extra strain on your pelvic floor muscles. And, since this is the postpartum period we are talking about, those muscles have taken enough of beating already, first from having to support the weight of the baby in the womb and then from the birth process. Putting more pressure against these muscles will likely weaken them even further.
Your incontinence may get worse.
Loss of urine when sneezing, laughing, or lifting heavy objects may be one of the less glamorous consequences of having babies. This condition is commonly referred to as stress urinary incontinence, and some factors that contribute to it include weakness of the urethral sphincter (also one of the pelvic floor muscles) and increased bladder pressure. Naturally, the increased pressure inside your abdomen and the continued stretching of your pelvic floor muscles, associated with wearing the girdle, will only make both of these issues worse.
Your normal breathing pattern will be disrupted.
Where the pelvic floor limits the abdominal cavity from the bottom, the diaphragm does the same from the top. In order for you to take a proper deep breath the diaphragm has to lower down into the abdomen. However, the increased intraabdominal pressure from the postpartum wrap makes it harder for the diaphragm to move down and, therefore, for your lungs to expand. This leads to shallow and inefficient breathing.
It may contribute to acid reflux.
Acid reflux is a bane for most pregnant women, and most of us are very happy to be rid of the problem once the baby is finally out. But wearing an abdominal binder can bring back the heartburn, throat pain, and sour taste in your mouth. How? Again, by increasing your intraabdominal pressure the girdle causes increased pressure in the stomach and leads to its contents (think acid) being pushed up into your food pipe.
You may feel more constipated or bloated.
Being squeezed in a tight space actually makes it more difficult for your bowels to move. As the result, your intestinal motility will decrease, and it will take longer for food to travel through your system. This slow transit of food can lead unwanted side effects like bacterial overgrowth, gas, distention, and constipation.
It may cause problems with circulation.
When all your organs are squeezed together with a corset your blood vessels also get constricted. This may cause diminished blood supply to all of your abdominal organs, muscles and tissues, leading to suboptimal function and slower healing.
And even contribute to blood clots.
Compression of the abdomen with a girdle or corset may also lead to compression of the inferior vena cava, a major vein which goes from your legs to your heart.. While this is not something out of the ordinary, and happens as a part of pregnancy, compression of this vein is associated with increased risk for varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and blood clots (referred to deep vein thrombosis by the medical community). So, keeping it compressed for longer than necessary may not be the best idea.
It can make you feel more anxious and stressed.
If all of the above side effects were not enough, increased pressure inside your abdomen can also lead to overactivation of your sympathetic nervous system, the one responsible for “fight or flight” response, and increased release of stress hormones such as cortisol. This can leave you more anxious, moody, and nervous.
Lead to skin irritation and infections.
Most of the compression garments available today are made of synthetic fabrics which do not allow your skin to breathe. Increased sweating from synthetic fabrics, combined with chafing and rubbing from the tight fit of a girdle, may become the source of skin rashes and fungal or bacterial infections.
Of course, all of those side effects take time to develop. So, if you need that corset in order to feel your best at a oncein-a-lifetime event like a wedding or graduation, go for it! A couple hours of wear will not wreak havoc on your body. But for everyday use, wearing a supportive jersey garment that fits smoothly over your core area is the best option.
While not putting any pressure on the abdominal muscles and organs, high waisted leggings or a long tank top made of mid to heavyweight natural jersey fabric, will provide optimal comfort and support for your loose skin. With the leggings, look for a style that goes up to just below your ribs, such as our high waisted Mom Life Leggings. For tank tops, aim for a length going down at least to your pubic bone. And as always we advise looking for natural breathable fabrics for both!