Lots of women love wearing a compression garment after their c-section. Without it they feel unsupported and ‘loose’. A much praised benefit of a belly wrap is that the firm support after the baby’s born gives them a safe feeling.
Abdominal binders are commonly worn after surgery or childbirth which makes them a popular means of aiding c-section recovery.
In particular after a ceasarean section women find the compression offers reassurance the incision wound will not burst open. The feeling of your insides falling out when rolling over to get out of bed for the first time is quite common among women recovering from a c-section.
The physical consequences of getting a C-section
After all, a cesarean section is an invasive procedure that involves cutting through your abdomen and uterus. Although your stomach muscles aren’t cut there’s considerable damage to your body.
In a c-section a surgical cut is made into the abdominal wall and then the stomach muscles are pulled apart to reveal the uterus.
The surgeon’s scalpel doesn’t cut trough the rectus muscles but the connective tissue (fascia) to which the muscles are attached is cut. This allows the obstetrician to separate the muscles and to reach the next fascia layer. In total about 6 or 7 incisions are made this way in a typical C-section.
These incisions and pullling out the baby between the muscle fibers causes stretching. The stretching, together with nerves being cut and loss of blood supply, may involve muscle damage which may make it challenging to get your stomach back into good muscle tone afterwards.
During the recovery the separated fascia will reconnect. This is sometimes done through stitches. Since the abdominal organs may be affected during the surgery, sharp pains and pain around the incision site are common.
This invasiveness of the cesarean section surgery is why the fear of spilling your bowels is quite understandable. It’s also a major reason why the extra support offered by a post-partum girdle is so valued.
On top of that C-section girdles have various additional benefits. Here are the most common reasons for mothers to wear one or another type of postpartum compression garment.
Benefits of wearing a pregnancy girdle girdle after your caesaran section
- to feel less self-conscious over a still bulging belly after a demanding pregancy (they make you feel and look thinner),
- to help straighten the spine after nine months of carrying the baby,
- compression helps reduce swelling,
- to help ensure the loose skin tightens properly,
- to prevent your sagging stomach from hurting your incision,
- to support a sore back and distended abdominal muscles,
- to give you more freedom of movement and flexibility, for example when bending down and picking your baby up from the changing table,
- to support not only the abdomen area, but the legs, hips and backside too,
- extra suppport while breastfeeding,
- to help alleviate pain,
- to reduce scar tissue since compression is a commonly used and proven scar reduction treatment,
- to reduce pressure and as a result tearing of the scar tissue and surrounding tissue,
- to speed recovery and reduce discomfort in case you suffer from diastasis recti – the separation of the abdominal muscle by the growing uterus or childbirth.
How does a C-section compression garment work?
A C-section girdle is a specially designed garment women wear after a cesarean birth. These garments are also called belts, wraps, corsets, post-baby girdles, mother-tuckers, and binders. The differences are in the features they offer.
Some may think these are just for appearances but they do much more than acting as post-natal body shapers.
By putting pressure on your lower abdomen and supporting the lumbar region of your back these garments draw in stretched and weakened muscles and provide a 360° support structure around your torso.
This added support reduces strain on joints and ligaments in your lower back, pelvis, and buttocks. Less stress in these areas improves your body’s ability to return to its normal pre-pregnancy state. Constrained and shifted organs are thought align faster because of the extra support.
The most commonly cited benefit is are that they allow moms to feel comfortable again since a long time. Their skin and muscles are pulled back in what feels like their original position.
Other advantages are that they help prevent the most common problems after a C-section which include: bacterial infections of the incision, pelvic adhesions and scarring.
Extra support stimulates you to walk and move more
Besides a more secure feeling regarding your incision you are likely to feel more confident and comfortable. Sitting down and standing up is easier.
Coughing or sneezing aren’t painful and there’s less chance on opening of the surgical wound. As a result you may feel like moving more and obviously, the more you move, the quicker you will get your shape back. What’s more is that walking can help you recover from a C-section faster.
Walking after a c-section promotes healing because it;
- increases circulation throughout the body,
- helps relieve constipation,
- prevents blood clots,
- boosts the immune system,
- helps prevent common potential ailments following a C-section such as pneumonia.
Does a compression garment hurt or damage your incision?
It is completely understandable to worry about the corset interfering with your incision. But the opposite is actually true. Compression has been used for a long time to promote wound and scar healing.
Abdominal binders, when worn around your midsection can actually speed healing and recovery.
Compression is known to increase blood flow, reduce swelling, prevent wounds from opening, reduce tension on newly formed scar tissue (which reduces the risk on excess scar tissue).
Obviously compression should be applied moderately. So avoid tightening a binder to the point that it hurts or you have trouble breathing.
Do c-section compression girdles speed up your return to pre-pregnancy size?
It is commonly thought that a postpartum girdle helps make your still-pregnant-looking-belly smaller more quickly. The theory behind this claim is that the gentle compression on the abs stimulates the uterus to return to its normal size.
Celebrities such as actress Jessica Alba attributed redeeming her old physique and super flat tummy to wearing two girdles, one on top of the other, day and night, for three months.
Kourtney Kardashian glorified the Belly Bandit stating the wrap is not only stylish and sexy but “actually helps tighten and shrink your belly after giving birth” and “really does accelerate the entire healing process”.
Belly wraps are said to help you get your shape back by reducing the swelling of the uterus by basically shrink-wrapping the tummy. They are said to reposition internal organs to their original state and encourage muscle memory thus enhancing the healing process.
“It wasn’t my intention to get my shape back asap, I wanted it for supporting my lower back. The binder really helped with the pain and although I gained almost 55 pounds I was able to fit my jeans at the time my son was 9 weeks old. I have recommended them to my sister who’s expecting too.”
It’s quite common to lots of weight during pregnancy and pregnant women retain lots fluid. After having stayed in the hospital for a few nights it’s common to be incredibly swollen. In case there has been lots of pushing prior to the decision to do a C-section, swelling of the perineum may occur.
Chances are you are even more swollen after the c-section. Which is why compression girdles are often recommended after a c-section.
Compression does reduce post surgical and traumatic edema (the medical term for swelling).
There’s however, no clinical evidence backing the claims that a compression garment will help you lose your flabby belly. Apart from smoothing out post pregnancy lumps and bumps they probably do not make you magically lose weight.
Maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber and exercising regulary do. By stimulating your metabolism you can speed up the process of regaining your old figure.
In our modern day, influenced by the media and celebrity endorsements women are under high pressure to snap back into shape after pregnancy. The most healthy way however, still is to lose the weight gradually.
Rushing to shed postpartum weight is not healthy
Surgeons, physicians, midwives, women’s health physiotherapist and other medical professionals agree that the best way to reduce abdominal distension are tummy muscle strengthening exercises and breast-feeding.
A benefit the belly wraps do offer is the helping your skin get tight.
Girdles have been used as postoperative wear by recovering liposuction patients to ensure that the skin tightens properly
Can post-partum compression garments offer too much support?
Opponents of belly binders say that this extra support works counterproductive. They are concerned that belly binders take over the job of the tummy muscles resulting in the core muscles becoming lazy and weak.
Of course, when providing your stomach with too much external support, the abdominal and pelvic-floor muscles will render inable to function on their own but this will not happen overnight. If you plan on wearing a compression garment day and night for weeks or months on end you may want to do some muscle training along the way.
During pregnancy the uterus is enlarged and the abdominal wall stretched and lengthened. This will normalize but it takes some time.
Jessica Alba may have worn two girdles for weeks but she probably has a personal trainer, a nanny, and access to healthy food too.
It’s just a matter of balancing between taking advantage of the benefits the extra support gives you while still making sure you are retraining your core muscles to let your body get its strength back.
Are there side effects?
Some obstetricians state that women are risking digestion problems, stress incontinence, and weakened back muscles by binding the abdominal wall too tightly.
Wearing a very tight corset and doing strenuous exercises in the first 6 months after the pregnancy may increase the risk on extreme bladder weakness as well as clots and low blood pressure. That’s why mild exercising, and building it up after a few months as well as eating a balanced diet are preferred.
Things to consider when buying
Medical-grade compression shapewear designed for post C-section bellies comes in various forms. There are pull-up girdles, hook-and-eye corsets and belly wraps. Popular brands are Abdomend, Underworks, Bellefit and Hourglass Angel.
- Your hospital may provide you with one – These are one of those post surgery aids that are often provided by the hospital although quality may vary. Some moms liked the wraps given to them while other women said that the belly wrap the hospital gave them did not offer enough support, felt stiff and not very soft.
- Get the right size – While a good belly wrap can do wonders it is important to get the right size for you. If you will wear them for a longer time you will probably need a few different sizes. When in doubt it’s best buy larger than smaller since you may be able to shrink your girdle somewhat while widening will be practically impossible. Some have velcro panels so you can adjust for tightness. Others have size adjusting hooks allowing you to wear them for weeks or months.
- Fabric – If you have sensitive skin, get a product with hypoallergenic fabric allowing your skin to breathe and to prevent skin rashes. Avoid latex and other fabrics that may cause you to sweat easily.
Which is the best c-section compression girdle?
One of the most popular and best reviewed girdles is the Bellefit Corset. The corset is specifically designed with women recovering from a cesarean section in mind.
It has hook-and-eye closures in the front that help protect and accommodate your incision scar when putting the girdle on. Its size is adjustable so it can be worn for months, is is not bulky, feels soft, is made of hypoallergenic fabric, and does not show under clothing.
The Bellefit brand has other models as well, girdles with zipper, pull-up and dual girdles. Essentially these are the same only with different closure methods.
- Some women like to wear support panties after giving birth. Although these may provide compression they don’t address the c-section incision area which is the weakest point.
- If you are not willing to shell out over hundred bucks the Gabrialla elastic abdominal binder or the even more affordable Underworks Post Delivery Belt may be for you.
- And then there’s the C-panty. Since this is basically high waisted underwear it may not offer you the support you may need or want. On the other hand, if you want a less intrusive solution it may be perfect for your needs. It offers some support and has a silicone gel panel that fits over the c-section incision area. Silicone sheeting is the only proven effective, over the counter scar treatment. If you don’t want to wear a larger corset but do want some extra support, something that helps reduce discomfort from cloting interfering with your incision and making it feel sensitive the C-panty may be a great option.
Wrapping it up
The practice of compression therapy on postpartum bellies is of all times. Since ancient times women have worn a compressing wrap, corset or girdle after giving birth. In Latin America mothers use a “faja” and Japanese moms have been using a “sarashi”.
In Western society compression girdles were originally used for people with back problems since they offer abdominal support.
Nowadays they are valued for offering abdominal and back and leg support, improving posture after giving birth too. Some experts have critized but most medical professionals are positive. The only caveat is the women should not feel rushed into getting their old shape back.
In the end the choice of using a compression girdle after a C-section stays a matter of personal preference. Some women can’t stand the feeling of anything over their incision while others swear by them. Lots of moms say they reduce the pain, give them a safer feeling, and help lose the baby weight quickly.
Most experts agree that, when used correctly there are no downsides. What do you think?
Image credit: Huffington Post