Although stories from real women and body-positive images are helpful in tearing down societal expectations that surround the idea of the "post-baby body" there's no denying the fact that our tabloid-and-Instagram-obsessed culture can put pressure on women to quickly bounce back after childbirth--and many find themselves longing to squeeze back into their skinny jeans.
While celebrities and influencers may make it seem easy, the truth is there isn't a magic solution--but that doesn't mean there aren't things you can do to make the process a little bit easier, and that's where recovery garments, like medical-grade compression girdles and belly bands, come in. The concept of supporting the back and pelvic floor after childbirth isn't new, but every now and again the debate is raised when an influencer uploads a photo of themselves clad in a binding garment. Just this week new mom Kylie Jenner showed off a dramatically small waist wrapped in a waist-trainer and the concept also came into question in 2013 after actress Jessica Alba credited her postpartum corset for helping her bounce back so quickly after her second child in an interview with Net-A-Porter.
In order to get to the bottom of the great debate, we turned to Cynthia Robbins, M.D. OB/GYN, who detailed the benefits of wearing a recovery garment after childbirth. "A woman produces the hormone called Relaxin throughout the pregnancy and it increases at the end of pregnancy.The whole role of Relaxin is to soften the ligaments and the cartilage so there can be a shift in the pelvis allowing the fetal head to come through the birth canal.Unfortunately, all the ligaments and cartilage soften which leads to more of a shifting and moving of the pelvis at the end of pregnancy as well as postpartum.A recovery garment aides in holding the tissue, ligaments and bones in place allowing stabilization of the pelvis," she said.
Not only can the right garment help stabilize the pelvis, but it can also offer up much-needed back support and pain relief. "When your baby is born the space that he or she once filled is now empty and your body works around the clock to shift all your organs back to their original position," Carolina Suarez-Garcia, Marketing Manager of Bellefit Maternity, explained. "During this time there is very little strength in the abdomen which makes it difficult for women to do the million things they need to do to care for their baby, themselves and their families."
There may be a slew of supportive benefits in binding your belly after childbirth, but wearing a recovery garment should not be confused with waist-training, a dangerous social media trend favored by celebrities and influencers alike.
"Waist training is basically a compressive device that typically in the past has been of a more metal type garment that constricts the waist and pushes in a woman’s floating rib.It is worn and compresses and is a temporary constriction and only temporarily makes the tissue smaller.This is very similar to wearing a ring that is too tight and taking it off and having an indention there that with time goes back to normal.It is not a long-term waist shaper.Some of the new ones are made of a more stretchy material, but they all basically just temporarily compress the tissue," Dr. Robbins explained.
While waist-training is both restrictive and temporary, wearing a proper recovery garment can provide much-needed support and stabilization to your body after childbirth. "A recovery garment, however, is a garment that stabilizes and allows your body to truly be transformed back to where it was prior to delivery due to the ability to exercise early and stabilize all of the joints and the pelvis so that it guides it back to where it was prior to the Relaxin hormone effects," she added.
The benefits of wearing a recovery garment can differ based on the way you deliver your child, too. While after vaginal delivery the aim is to stabilize the pelvis, there are even more benefits to binding the area after a c-section, as the compression will help with fluid retention in the pelvic area around the incision and edema along the abdomen. "The wrap type garment not only holds the pelvis in place but also holds the incision site.This helps ensure that the musculature is able to stay in place and exercise and tighten up better as well as make the woman feel much more comfortable postoperatively.After C-section, there is an overwhelming sensation of the internal organs falling out because of the weakness felt in the abdomen and these postpartum garments hold, tighten and give the sensation of things held in. It also helps remarkably with pain and allows patients to move around more freely with less discomfort due to the compression," Dr. Robbins explained.
When it comes to selecting the right binder it's crucial that you pay extra attention to both the fit and the support it offers--opt for something that's soft and breathable. "The best garment would be one that stabilizes the pelvis by holding the bone structure and cartilage firm and keeps it from shifting and moving a lot.This immobilization would be from the lower abdomen across the pelvic area," Dr. Robbins added. And, in order to achieve the best results, she recommends wearing a recovery garment for the first three months after giving birth. "I think any postpartum garment should be worn during the day and then can be taken off at night for rest."
Unfortunately there isn't a magic piece of shapewear that can melt away those pesky pregnancy pounds, but a recovery garment can provide much-needed support and relief post-childbirth--and it can hopefully help you slip back into your favorite skinny jeans sooner rather than later. Check out the best options in recovery garments below if you're looking for something to wear after childbirth.
The Corset girdle is an FDA-registered medical device that features a front closure consisting of 2 rows of hook-and-eye closures that can be adjusted to tighten your girdle when additional compression is needed. It can be worn after a C-section or natural birth. "Women who deliver via C-Section will need to wear a Corset or Dual-style garment which can be unhooked completely and put on with more ease. The Corset and Dual style are also ideal for women with more curvy body shapes. The zipper and pull up style work best for women with less curvy body shapes," Carolina Suarez-Garcia, Marketing Manager of Bellefit Maternity, explained.
The patented design is made of latex-free, eco-friendly material and features corset-inspired construction. Six support panels and two compression panels help slim and support your belly, waist and hips post-pregnancy and provide medical-grade compression. Wear the Belly Bandit® Belly Wrap for at least the first six to ten weeks postpartum to help achieve optimal results.
Made of adjustable, moisture-wicking and antibacterial bamboo charcoal fiber, it aims to increase circulation while providing support to the lower back, thanks to the built-in boning. Perfect for postnatal use following both natural childbirth and c-section deliveries.