Pregnancy and childbirth are hard on a woman's body. Ligaments, muscles and even the skeletal system are stretched and overworked. The pelvic floor muscles become weak. With each pregnancy, these symptoms may become more pronounced. A postpartum belt can help relieve any discomfort and provide practical benefits to a new mother.
A postpartum support belt acts like a de facto six-pack of abdominal muscles. The belt supports stretched out ligaments and muscles. It helps reduce back and pelvic pain by taking the pressure off these regions. It may also assist in making the postpartum belly smaller, as it realigns the organs and muscles to their original positions. Many women report returning to their pre-pregnancy sizes faster while using a support belt.
Most postpartum support belts are made of medical-grade elastic that looks like a large girdle or belt with Velcro closures. It loops all the way around the belly and should be tight-fitting. You can also find latex-free belts if you are allergic to latex. Some manufacturers sell pregnancy support belts that are also worn postpartum.
Women who have had Cesareans need to have a postpartum garment instead of a support belt. There are a few U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved post-Cesarean garments that provide full support and help reduce scarring, including one made by Design Veronique. These fit like bicycle shorts that end just below the breasts. You may also choose to wear a postpartum garment instead of a belt after a vaginal birth, too.
Sizing a postpartum belt is tricky, because no one is at their regular size during pregnancy. To account for this, manufacturers offer instructions on how to calculate the size. For example, the Belly Bandit directs mothers to measure their bellies just prior to delivery, then subtract 3 to 5 inches, then look on a chart for the corresponding size. A "medium" in this instance ranges from 38 to 43 inches. Medela, on the other hand, asks women to use their regular pre-pregnancy sizes to select the belt. This may not fit correctly if the woman gained a lot of weight during pregnancy.
Pricing and Availability
Pricing varies from about £13 for a basic Medela belt to £65 for a full-body compression garment. These belts are carried at many department stores or maternity speciality stores. If you can't find a suitable postpartum belt at a bricks and mortar store, order it online or ask your obstetrician where to find one.
How long the belt is worn depends on the individual. Many new mothers choose to wear a postpartum belt for their entire recovery period, about six to eight weeks. It won't hurt to keep wearing it past that time, if it feels comfortable. Other women stop wearing the belts after only a couple of weeks because their abdomen has already shrunk.