Postpartum Belly Wraps: Are They Really Worth Wearing?

by WILLIAM z

Can Belly Wraps Help Postpartum?

Postpartum wraps have been around for generations, ever since people started wrapping sheets around their mid-sections after giving birth, explains board-certified OB-GYN Heather Bartos, M.D., founder of be. Women's Health and Wellness in Cross Roads, Texas. And while there isn't a ton of data about their use during pregnancy or postpartum, there are some studies to suggest at least some benefits.
For one, most experts agree that light support postpartum—when tissues and organs start moving back into place—can help you feel better, which was the case for Ashleigh M., a 30-year-old in New York who used use a MammaBump belly wrap after a vaginal delivery.

 

How Belly Wraps Work Postpartum

Light compression from abdominal wraps can support your natural transverse abdominal muscle when you can't yet contract it yet, explains Michelle Guido, D.P.T., founder of Activo Physical Therapy in San Diego.
Wraps more or less "splint" the muscles which have separated during pregnancy (something that happens in all pregnancies, BTW, to make room for a growing uterus), adds Dr. Bartos. This could help you be more conscious of using your abs, which is step one in getting them back to full strength, notes Guido. They could also help with spinal alignment, encouraging, in turn, organs, your uterus, and muscles get back to business as usual, she explains.
Of course, your abdominal muscles do make their way back together on their own in time, and Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine notes that there's not much research to suggest that binders truly help the healing process. They also won't help accelerate the healing of an abdominal separation, says Guido.
But? If you feel better, that probably helps healing in and of itself, says Dr. Minkin.

 

Belly Wraps and C-Section Pain

Other potential benefits of a wrap include alleviating pain related to a C-section. One small recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that women who wore a binder after having a C-section experienced less pain, suggesting that a postpartum belly wrap might be a good (non-opioid) way to deal with postpartum pain. Other research backs that idea suggesting a binder could help with pain, with no significant difference in bleeding, allowing new mamas to focus more on feeding and bonding and less on being distracted by pain.
Dr. Bartos notes that wraps could also help with pain from gas from an exposed abdomen (which traps gas and can be super painful).
Of course, other studies find no effect on recovery or levels of distress for new moms who delivered via cesarean. Abby G., a mom of two who lives in Westwood, Massachusetts used a wrap after both of her deliveries (one that was a C-section and one that was a vaginal delivery), for example, and says that the band didn't help with the pain.
Additional potential perks? There's some research to suggest that binding can help improve body image, and—with exercise—trunk flexion (basically how well you can bend forward).