Calling new mommies: Here’s what belly binding can do for your postpartum body
Belly binding is a routine practice in the Indian culture. Usually an old cotton saree is wrapped around a woman’s belly—from the ribs to the hips. These days, belly wraps are commercially available—they are made with elastic and are easier to use.
Right after my Caesarean, I would hold my belly with both hands and walk to the bathroom fearing my organs would come spilling out through my caesarean incision. It’s very painful to walk after a C-section and these belly wraps work wonders in reducing the pressure of the sagging pooch on the stitches.
These are the advantages of belly binding
If belly binding is done with appropriate pressure, tolerable to the new mother, then it reduces postpartum blood loss as seen by higher haemoglobin levels in such patients.
It also reduces pain in C-section mothers. Many women think that binding the belly as tightly as possible will give them a belly ‘as flat as a dosa’ in a matter of few weeks and help reclaim their lost pre-pregnancy bellies.
But before you even think of going down the road, let’s do a reality check.
Here are a few things belly binding can do for you:
1. Everything has been turned upside down in your body to house the baby
The only bone in your abdomen, the spine, was curved excessively to balance your body. Your entire weight bearing was out of whack.
A decent amount of tolerable pressure by the elastic belt of a belly wrap increases the abdominal pressure and helps in stabilising your strained spine.
2. Your ligaments need some support too
The relaxed ligaments (under the influence of the hormone relaxin) need support too. This practice helps in their realignment to the pre-pregnancy state.
3. Your stressed abs are calling out for help
The muscle group running straight down your abdomen, the one you call abs, has had more than its fair share of stress during pregnancy. It is prone to separation before or after delivery – a condition known as diastasis recti.
Providing support for at least 8 to 10 hours a day will help keep the divided muscle together and help in better healing. The belly support works along the same principle as stitches do. The injured or cut open skin is provided close alignment by using sutures to create bridging of the damaged tissue.
Healing is really the body’s job (and not that of the stitches). That’s how belly binding works—it allows the muscles to be close together to heal properly.
4. It can keep your belly from expanding further
The abdominal binder achieves immediate waist reduction as the soft and fleshy tissues are compressed, squeezed, and redistributed above and below the waistline.
Also, it holds the abdominal muscles in at the right tension and prevents them from becoming loose and expanding further.
That said, you need to be careful about the amount of pressure you put on your belly post delivery
The misguided people who advocate bouncing-back-in-no-time advise wearing tight elastic corsets, restrictive belly pressure and what not. This reminds me of the medieval times where women were forced into tight clothing in order to look petite.
Post-delivery is not the time for torturing your body in the name of looking good. If you apply very high pressure externally on your belly, then you run the risk of uterus prolapse.
In this condition, the uterus sinks out of the open cervix and vagina. The high pressure can also translate to pushing the stomach up through the diaphragm and can lead to life-long acidity and heartburn.
This is how you can practice belly binding:
1. A family member can wrap a saree around your belly starting a day or two after birth
C-section moms also need belly binding early on as it helps support the loose belly skin and avoids pressure on the stitches while walking. The mother should be the judge of how much pressure she wants in the first few days.
2. If you are on your own, then you can use the elastic binders available in maternity stores and online
Place the binder on the bed and lie on it. Wrap it around your waist and lower belly and secure it. The fit is snug if you wrap it lying down.
3. Always make sure the pressure is comfortable
Bind for 8–10 hours a day for the first month at least.
4. Belly binding should be accompanied by Kegels
Especially, after vaginal deliveries when the pelvic floor has been stretched out, the bind’s pressure on the abdomen translates to more pressure downwards on the pelvic area.
Kegels will restore strength and tone your muscles down there. It’s pretty much the only exercise you have to engage in the first few weeks after delivery in addition to breastfeeding and short walks around the house.
Clench your pelvic floor muscles and hold the pose for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds. Do 5 repetitions in a set and do this exercise thrice a day.