Pregnancy is when women go through a lot of transformation–both physical and emotional. Your bodies change and your hormones start wreaking havoc with your minds. Nurturing life within you is not that easy; in fact, for most women, it is one of the most physically uncomfortable times of their lives.
Pregnancy And Pain
One of the main physical discomforts that pregnant women complain of is pain in the lower back, hip and pelvic area, mostly beginning from their second trimester. A study published in The Journal Of Perinatal Education says that this pain is usually caused due to the increasing weight of the enlarging uterus and its contents and the stretching of the surrounding tissues.1
Research says that lower back pain during pregnancy can be disabling, limiting everyday activities, impacting the productivity of the pregnant women and should not be ignored.2 One of the methods suggested in this study among others like exercising, physiotherapy and acupuncture of the pregnant women and should not be ignored. One of the methods suggested in this study among others like exercising, physiotherapy and acupuncture is the use of “stabilization belts”.
What Are Belly Bands?
A belly band is a kind of stabilization garment which is usually made of flexible or elastic cloth and used to provide support to the lower back and abdomen of pregnant women. It is a wide circular strip of fabric and is specially designed to fit a pregnant woman’s mid-section. The garment is usually made of a combination of fabrics like cotton and one or more technical fabric like Lycra or Spandex, to make it stretchy and accommodate the growing belly of the expectant mother.
Benefits Of Belly Bands
There are a few scientifically proven and some anecdotally verified benefits of wearing a belly band. Some of them are:
1. Pain Relief
Lower back pain is one of the leading reasons why pregnant women call sick from work.3 Belly bands can help solve this issue to an extent. Most belly bands work by applying external compression and distributing weight evenly in the pelvic region. According to a study published in the Journal Of Biomechanics, this property of a belly band can be particularly effective in decreasing lower back and/or pelvic girdle pain in pregnant women. In the study, a 3-D pelvic model was used to simulate compression similar to that of a belly band and was found to unload painful pelvic ligaments and muscles, which could possibly alleviate pain in the area.4
2. Support To Abdomen
A belly band does to a pregnant abdomen what a sports bra does to the breasts while exercising. Studies have found that a belly band acts as external support improving abdominal muscle control by decreasing the activation of muscles in the pelvic region.5 6 This is because the belly band acts as a stabilizer by helping the coordinated pelvic muscles to press the ilia, the bones on the upper part of the pelvis, against the sacrum, a triangular bone in the lower back situated between the hip bones. This means women can perform any kind of safe exercises during their second and third trimester with adequate support assured, thus also decreasing the possibility of injuries.
3. Better Posture
When you are pregnant, your body changes to adapt to the growth of your baby. The body’s center of gravity shifts and the abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate your expanding uterus. As they stretch, their ability to perform their regular function of maintaining body posture decreases. This means there is a visible change of posture in pregnant women which causes the lower back to support most of the increasing weight around the torso.7 As belly bands support the lower back and torso by distributing weight evenly, it encourages the body to maintain a better posture. Wearing a belly band and performing core-strengthening exercises will help attain a healthy posture during pregnancy.
4. It Can Help You Fit Into Your Pre-Pregnancy Clothes
Most women find that just a few weeks into their pregnancy, pants, and jeans that used to be comfortable earlier are giving them nightmares. Buttons don’t close or waistbands start digging into the skin. One way to deal with this is to get maternity clothing. Another option is to get a good belly band and unbutton a few buttons of your jeans. The belly band not just hides the fact that you have unbuttoned or unzipped your pants, but it will also keep the pants in place while giving the needed support to your abdomen and back.
5. It Can Be Used After Delivery As Well
Belly bands can be used even after pregnancy to help new mothers increase the strength of their abdominal muscles. It has been proven to cause a significant decrease in waist circumference and waist-hip ratio in women.8 The band also provides support to the stretched ligaments and muscles, assist in better abdominal wall retraction, and help improve posture.
How To Wear A Belly Band
Every belly band comes with a different set of instructions on how to wear it. But usually, they are worn around the waistband of your clothing and pulled up to cover your belly. If your belly band is worn right, it should feel like your pelvis “is being hugged”.
Things To Keep In Mind While Wearing A Belly Band
Take care to not use the belly band for more that two to three hours at a stretch. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before you wear a belly band as it compresses your muscles, which can prove to be problematic for a few women. According to a study published in the Journal Of Clinical Nursing, belly bands could also, in some cases, cause increased pain, fetal heart rate changes, skin irritation, and discomfort.9
Always remember that a belly band is only a support garment and not a permanent fix for your troubles.
|↑1||Greenwood, Connie J., and M. Colleen Stainton. “Back pain/discomfort in pregnancy: invisible and forgotten.” The Journal of perinatal education 10, no. 1 (2001): 1-12.|
|↑2, ↑3||Katonis, P., A. Kampouroglou, A. Aggelopoulos, K. Kakavelakis, S. Lykoudis, A. Makrigiannakis, and K. Alpantaki. “Pregnancy-related low back pain.” Hippokratia 15, no. 3 (2011): 205-210.|
|↑4||Pel, J. J. M., C. W. Spoor, R. H. M. Goossens, and A. L. Pool-Goudzwaard. “Biomechanical model study of pelvic belt influence on muscle and ligament forces.” Journal of biomechanics 41, no. 9 (2008): 1878-1884.|
|↑5||Kim, Yu-Ri, Ji-Won Kim, Duk-Hyun An, Won-Gyu Yoo, and Jae-Seop Oh. “Effects of a pelvic belt on the EMG activity of the abdominal muscles during a single-leg hold in the hook-lying position on a round foam roll.” Journal of physical therapy science 25, no. 7 (2013): 793-795.|
|↑6||Hu, Hai, Onno G. Meijer, Jaap H. Van Dieen, Paul W. Hodges, Sjoerd M. Bruijn, Rob L. Strijers, Prabath W. Nanayakkara, Barend J. Van Royen, Wenhua Wu, and Chun Xia. “Muscle activity during the active straight leg raise (ASLR), and the effects of a pelvic belt on the ASLR and on treadmill walking.” Journal of biomechanics 43, no. 3 (2010): 532-539.|
|↑7||Sabino, Jennifer, and Jonathan N. Grauer. “Pregnancy and low back pain.” Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine 1, no. 2 (2008): 137-141.|
|↑8||El-Mekawy, Hanan S., Abeer M. Eldeeb, Marzouk A. El-Lythy, and Adel F. El-Begawy. “Effect of abdominal exercises versus abdominal supporting belt on post-partum abdominal efficiency and rectus separation.” In Proceedings of World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, no. 73, p. 742. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology (WASET), 2013.|
|↑9||Ho, Simone SM, Winnie WM Yu, Terence T. Lao, Daniel HK Chow, Joanne WY Chung, and Yi Li. “Effectiveness of maternity support belts in reducing low back pain during pregnancy: a review.” Journal of clinical nursing 18, no. 11 (2009): 1523-1532.|