Belly Banding is something that has been practiced for centuries throughout different parts of the world. In Japan women wear their belly wraps called sarashi for 100 days post- birth. Some Hispanic women wear their faja or belly wraps for 2 weeks after birth, and among Malaysian women they wear their bengkung for 44 days postpartum (1). The practice of wearing a belly band or abdominal binder is gaining popularity due to its claims of providing support during postpartum recovery. There are countless abdominal support products available online reporting that they improve weight loss, increase activity level, shrink waist measurements, help with pain, assist with postpartum recovery, and improve posture. Is it all a big gimmick or do they actually help?
First, what are some of the possible benefits of wearing an abdominal binder after delivering a baby?
- Support for weak abdominal muscles
- Reduced swelling
- Improved weight loss
- Maternal comfort
- Guards incision for c-section mamas
- Flattened stomach
- Reduced pain
- Improved mobility
What are some of the possible disadvantages of wearing an abdominal binder?
- Discomfort with use
- Increased intra-abdominal & pelvic pressure
- Decrease in abdominal muscle strength
- Could make pelvic organ prolapse worse
- Ineffective product
The real question is …are they helpful? What does the research say ? According to two small scale randomized control trials, wearing an abdominal binder post planned cesarean does decrease postpartum pain and distress (2, 3). One “systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials [ concluded that] : The abdominal binder could be an effective, simple, non-pharmacological option of relieving pain and distress after CD” (4). Considering this information, wearing an abdominal binder post scheduled cesarean may be helpful for pain.
Unfortunately, the data is lacking on the benefit of wearing an abdominal binder post vaginal birth, and wearing one may even cause harm due to the increased intra-abdominal and pelvic pressure. Women who have had a vaginal birth should exercise caution when wearing an abdominal binder if they pushed for an extended period of time, had a 3rd or 4th degree laceration, have known pelvic organ prolapse, or experience pain or discomfort with use.
It’s important to note that all of these studies were conducted on a small scale and included scheduled cesareans only. Overall, the data is limited on the benefits of wearing an abdominal binder post c-section but according to the information available does appear to be helpful. The data on the benefits for vaginal deliveries is lacking and using a binder could disrupt recovery. One should also consider that the modern day abdominal binders would be very different from the traditional cultural practice of belly binding. Traditional belly binding practices would’ve included skilled application, rest, nurturing, and care of the new mother and not be done with the intention of having the new mamas’ bodies bounce back quicker and faster after birth.
Each individual that is considering using a binder should look at the research, consider their situation, overall goals for use, and finally discuss with their ob care provider as to what might be the best solution. Women who experience pelvic floor dysfunction post-birth should consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist for more comprehensive treatment.
Want more postpartum support that no abdominal binder can give? Mama Coaches offer virtual and in-home postpartum|newborn visits to support you and your family through this major life transition with Science+Empathy + Support. All Mama Coaches are Registered Nurses with special training in the postpartum period and infant feeding. You can find your local Mama Coach, here.