Wrapping Stomach After Giving Birth: Does it Help With Weight Loss?

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on January 3, 2020
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If you are reading this article, chances are you’ve had a C-section, which took a pretty large toll on your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. While it is totally understandable that you are very much eager to go back to your pre-pregnancy weight and shape immediately, it is important that your body changes and transforms in order for you to give birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. 

Losing weight after giving birth should be done carefully and patiently. Luckily, there are healthy and safe ways to help speed up your recovery. For sure you have heard of belly bands or wraps! A lot of new celebrity moms intending to get back in shape right after giving birth are using them. Aside from being a trend, post-partum belly wraps offer so much more. Read on for more information.

The History of Belly-Binding Wraps

The practice of wrapping the stomach after giving birth has been around since the ancient years. This is evident in different parts of the world:

  • Bengkung belly-binding in Malaysia
  • Hispanic women refer to it as faja
  • In Japan, it is known as sarashi

Long strips made of cloth are wrapped in a woman’s abdominal area after having a baby. As the new mom’s midsection slim down, the cloth is adjusted accordingly by trimming down its size and tightening it.  

Why Do Women Do This in the Early Days?

Sarashi is thought to hasten weight loss processes and provides assistance in abdominal muscles toning and firming of loose skin that occurs after childbirth. In a study about lumbar-support belts, it has been proven that abdominal belts can improve abdominal strength (1). This results in an increase of an inner abdominal pressure which aids in stabilizing the spine. Other muscles such as the extensors and trunk flexors are consequently activated in the process, as well. 

Hispanic women use faja in the hopes to bring together all the muscles used when giving birth. The abdominal binder was able to assist in waist reduction according to one study (2). The soft fleshy tissues in the belly area were compressed and redistributed properly from the waistline up and down. By holding the muscles in place with the help of right tension level, the midsection does not expand and become flabby.

The goal of abdominal wrapping, in general, is to minimize the swelling and tighten the stretched out muscles. This practice has only been around in Eastern countries for a short period of time. However, they are responsible for the added modern take on this post-partum tool. Studies involving the effects of abdominal binders are not common. In fact, in the field of medicine, only 4 trials have been conducted in the use of abdominal binders for patients who went through a procedure called laparotomy (3). Even though, such measure has been frequently employed in the said surgery. Nevertheless, the lack of research does not discourage new moms from trying out this celebrity fad that has been based on ancient practice and genuine wisdom. 

The Truth About Weight Gain in Pregnancy

Around the time of pregnancy, a woman may gain somewhere from 25 to 35 pounds on average. However, the recommended weight gain is dependent on the mom’s BMI before giving birth. For instance, an underweight woman is considered to have a normal weight gain even after putting on an additional 40 pounds (4). While obese women are advised to maintain a weight gain of only about 11 to 20 pounds.

After giving birth, she loses only around 10 pounds which consists of the placenta, amniotic fluid, blood, and the baby. This little information gives an idea that after giving birth, it is impossible to lose all the pregnancy weight. This is especially frustrating because some moms just can’t wait to get back in shape after 9 months of carrying their baby in their belly. Weight gain has been considered a cause of dissatisfaction for pregnant women and has been linked to depressive symptoms during pregnancy (5). Depression is evident in women who gained a lot of weight during pregnancy (6).

This is why a lot of new mommies look for ways, such as abdominal binding, to trim down their waist and get back to their former shape after giving birth.

Belly Wrapping and Its Weight Loss Effects After Pregnancy

The abdomen is responsible for movements of the trunk and the stabilization of the lower back during these movements (7). The muscles in this area are comprised of four layers that begin at the breastbone and ribs down to the pelvis.

At the time of pregnancy, changes in hormones caused by progesterone, estrogen, and relaxin stretch out the abdominal muscles, concentrating on the separation of the long muscle group in the middle abdomen known as the rectus abdominis (2). The hormonal changes coupled with continuous uterine growth leading to abdominal muscle stretches results to a decrease in the ability of rectus abdominis muscles to contract (8). In two out of three women, the rectus abdominis muscles get separated due to abdominal weakness, weight gain, increased tension, and hormonal changes. If a woman suffered from it the first time she gave birth, it will most likely to reoccur in the next pregnancies. In some cases, around 66% of women also experience a separation of their vertical abdominal muscles. It normally takes six weeks to heal (9).

As the uterus adjusts back to its original size, the loose abdominal muscles get left behind, leaving an extended belly appearance. This is how the belly wrap helps reduce the flabbiness and softness of the belly after giving birth. Abdominal binders compress the belly and lower back to shrink it back to their former glory.

What are the Benefits of Belly-Wrapping?

Belly-wraps are a pregnant woman’s weight loss pill. Aside from first-time moms, a lot of fitness enthusiasts have also joined in the fun. After all, it claims that in just an hour of use, it can shed off some inches and pounds.

Other than the promise of weight loss, what are the other benefits of this method?

1. Helps in Tummy Tuck Procedures and Back Problems

Abdominal binders have been used in tummy tuck procedures and back problems. Regular use of a binder can ease up the muscle pain and strain by adjusting the weight of the abdomen toward the spinal area, where it is carried out naturally.

2. Supports Posture Management

Posture management and lower back problems are relieved. The support it gives the torso and lower back facilitates correct posture and prevents over-arching of the bank. Most new moms have a hard time maintaining a nice posture because of weakened and stretched out core muscles and lack of spine support.

3. Relieves Pain and Pressure Caused by Incisions from Surgeries

Improvement in pain and pressure due to incisions from surgeries, not just C-section, are experienced. In one study, it was proven albeit with weak evidence, that patients responded with a positive effect on pain, psychological distress, and physical function any abdominal surgery (10). A separate study concluded that abdominal binders are linked with improved pain scores after operations, but have no influence over postoperative hemorrhage (11).

4. Improves Mood and Daily Activities

Belly binding can shoo away baby blues. It helps heal women emotionally, not just physically. Wearing a belly band can help women carry on with daily tasks.

5. Provides Good Compression

During activities, belly bands can provide compression. Imagine running without a sports bra. It does not sound comfortable, right? The compression supports the uterus while providing comfort in every movement when doing exercises. Just be careful not to put in too much compression. If the band is too tight, it can interfere with the blood circulation and also cause indigestion and heartburn.

What You Should Know Before Wearing a Belly Binder

  • Avoid developing over-dependence on the binder by wearing it for no more than three hours straight.
  • Exercises with a belly wrap can keep the core muscles strong.  You can do this during and after pregnancy.
  • Ask your doctor before purchasing a belly wrap. If you happen to have abnormal blood pressure or compromised blood circulation, your doctor will advise you to stay away from it.
  • Belly binders are great and all, but you can’t depend on it forever. Women who have underlying dysfunction should go to physical therapy to address the root of the problem.
  • Body heat can get trapped making it difficult to breathe. 

How to Lose Weight with Belly-Binding?

The truth is, belly binding alone, cannot help you get rid of your pregnancy weight. While it does seem to reduce waist size, the effect is not permanent. In some cases, it can even weaken the muscles. Your abs might get dependent on the binder and so your core will stop or limit exerting too much effort.

Adding a good diet and exercise regimen can help you shed some of that baby weight. The traditional weight loss advice to eat clean and train regularly applies to pregnancy weight, too.

With a good strengthening program, a new mom can rebuild her core muscles and care for her baby easily (12).

Here are some minimal-effort exercise perfect for moms who just recently gave birth:

The Inhale

It is as simple as it sounds. This position can be done whenever, wherever. Standing up, sitting down, or even on all fours, this exercise will be effective so long as you maintain a flat back. 

  1. Place your hands on your belly. Breathe in and make sure that your tummy is filled with air.
  2. When exhaling, pull your belly button into the spine. Hold.
  3. As you hold, try to do mini breaths without expanding the tummy. To exhale further, pull your belly in more. 

Repeat the method without interruptions for two straight minutes. If doing that is challenging, release the tensed muscles and take a full swing at it again starting with Step 1. After every two minutes, you can change your position. Ten minutes of this in one day can strengthen your weakened muscles in no time.

Kegel Exercise

To pack more punch in this exercise, do Kegel exercise with it. Kegels improve the muscle strength of the bladder and rectum. The motion is similar to squeezing the sphincter when stopping urine flow. The whole process of postpartum rehabilitation is not easy. So, relying on just an abdominal binder to do the job is not advised.

Other exercises like stretching and power-walking can also be done to lower down the excess weight. You should wait for more than six weeks before doing other forms of workouts.

Exercises to Avoid Post-Pregnancy

The separation of rectus abdominis muscles can be worsened by certain exercises. Observe the movement of your belly when working out. If it protrudes out in any type of exercise, it can exacerbate the separation. Always look at your belly to ensure that you are contracting your abdominal muscles at all times.

This should not impose fear on new moms, exercises are generally safe if you made a conscious effort in keeping the belly in. Workouts like bicycle crunch and crossover crunches can help get back the lost abdominal strength after pregnancy.

Losing Weight Safely by Eating Clean While Belly-Binding

These habits will keep you energized for your baby and encourage weight loss at a steady and safe rate.

  1. Make sure to consume 5 portions of vegetables and fruits in one day. Fruit consumption has more influence on body weight management than vegetables (13).
  2. Always eat foods that are rich in fiber. For example, have oatmeal in the morning and eat beans and lentils at night. Incorporating fiber-rich foods in every meal can trim down your waist. One study showed an inverse relationship between fiber intake and BMI (14). This means with an increase in fiber, the BMI decreases.
  3. Avoid fatty and sugary foods for a while. Fast food and baked goods are golden tickets to obesity.
  4. Practice portion control when you eat. 
  5. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of your snacks, as well.
  6. Drink a lot of water and avoid juices and sodas for a while. Absolute and relative improvements on water intake were both linked to a significant reduction of body weight and fat loss over a period of time (15).

These healthy diet practices will be more beneficial when done with exercises. You can get more energy to do some exercise after taking care of your baby. 

Take-Home Message

Belly wraps and girdles have multiple layers of wrapping that begins just below the breasts and extends to the hips. This product aims to give lower back support, boost the postpartum recovery time, and stimulate healthy blood circulation. However, most new moms consider it a post-pregnancy weight-loss tool. It does help tighten core muscles, but using belly wraps should only be thought of as a supplementary method. Your first line of defense against excessive pounds should always be a combination of eating clean and exercising well.

References: 

    1. https://www.jospt.org/doi/abs/10.2519/jospt.2001.31.6.316?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed
    2. https://waset.org/publications/7884/effect-of-abdominal-exercises-versus-abdominal-supporting-belt-on-post-partum-abdominal-efficiency-and-rectus-separation
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5018651/
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279575/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4601205/
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4601205/
    7. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/15619965
    8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/book/10.1002/9780470699263
    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8677279
    10. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9410/b6b9548d2d811f24f2994c2a13ddbfcd39ad.pdf
    11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962320/
    12. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/37/1/6
    13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20022464
    14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5702918/
    15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18787524

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