I know quite a few women that rave about postpartum compression girdles – so I thought I’d get the low down on them.
The concept of using a compression girdle garment designed to support postpartum recovery is not new, but modern versions are certainly seeing a resurgence as a safe option for women to recover from childbirth.
Women’s bodies are built to bounce back from pregnancy and childbirth, but the reality is that it can be difficult to “bounce back” without help. During pregnancy the body secretes hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and relaxin that remain in your body after childbirth for approximately six months. These hormones are our body’s way of loosening the pelvic structure, joints, ligaments and the abdominal muscles (stretching of the abdominal area by as much as 50%), to prepare for childbirth.
A pregnant woman also maintains a blood volume one and a half times her normal levels. That is a lot of extra fluid!
In addition, you tend to retain water later in pregnancy – many pregnant women have experienced swollen ankles, feet, or hands. A common, but potentially dangerous condition, eclampsia, causes significant water retention and high blood pressure (you can read more about that here.)
Plus, most women who birth their babies in hospitals have an IV during labor and birth. An IV delivers fluids to the body and serves as vehicle for some medications that a woman may receive during childbirth, like Pitocin. Because the IV delivers extra fluids directly into a woman’s blood vessels, there is even more fluid for a woman to lose after a hospital birth!
After you’ve given birth your body is still “loose” and full of fluid, which is where a compression girdle comes in.
What is a girdle, anyway?
A girdle is a support garment worn by women under their clothes to smooth and shape their midsection.
How does it work?
Over time, the body will regulate itself: most new mothers experience frequent urination after having their babies. This is one way that the body handles the excess fluid. Another way is through sweating. Most new mothers will experience a few periods of intense sweating over the first week of recovery from childbirth. Again, the body is simply doing its job – using the systems it has to reduce fluid levels.
This process can sometimes take a lot longer than most moms expect. Wearing a compression garment, however, can speed the loss of this excess water. By compressing the abdominal tissues, excess fluid becomes available for transport through the blood to the kidneys, to be removed by the excretory system.
Compression also helps to return the internal organs to their proper places within the abdomen and give the abdominal muscles the support they need to snap back to their original shape. We call it “The Bellefit Effect.”
Women with diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles, also find relief and support using a compression garment, because the compression provided by a girdle or corset gives the abdominal muscles a chance to heal in their proper position, rather than healing incorrectly.
The compression garments work by drawing in stretched muscles to provide a 360° support structure around the torso, thus, reducing strain on ligaments and joints in the lower back, pelvis, and buttocks. Reducing stress in these areas enhances your body’s ability to return to its pre-pregnancy alignment, shape and to lose the post baby tummy faster. As shifted and constrained organs return to their pre-pregnancy locations during the first few weeks after c-section or natural childbirth, a girdle will hold you in place allowing for movement with greater confidence.
So what are you waiting for? Go get your girdle, girl!
Think that a compression girdle my be right for you? The optimal time to wear one is 0-6 months postpartum, but some women have reported success with them as late as 8-10 months – I guess I’m a little late with my son will turning six this year.