A woman's body goes through many biomechanical changes during pregnancy. As the baby develops, the center of gravity shifts due to the weight gain, and muscles stretch and joints loosen to prepare for birth. As a result of this, many women experience joint and nerve pain, especially in the low back and hips due to the stretching of the abdominal muscles. Abdominal belts may help to alleviate some of this pain while the body takes time to return to prepregnancy health.
During pregnancy, the expanding abdominal area causes the muscles to stretch, often contributing to low back pain. After birth, these muscles take time and work to return to normal. The concept behind using abdominal belts after pregnancy is that they will provide extra support to the torso to help do the work of the muscles to alleviate some of the resulting low back pain.
Abdominal belts come in different styles and sizes to fit all body types. Most are easy to adjust and remove with Velcro or snap. They are made of a lightweight spandex or nylon material. Belts might cover the abdominal section only or both the torso and hips. One popular brand, Medela, covers only the torso, whereas the Design Veronique covers both.
Not only do postpartum support belts for the abdominals help to relieve low back pain by reducing stress and adding stability to the pelvic floor muscles, they can also help recovery from C-section by supporting the area around the incision during the immediate six to eight weeks of inactivity. This allows the spine to return to proper prepregnancy alignment. Providing extra support to the abdominal wall also helps to protect the internal organs.
While abdominal belts support the muscular system after birth, the abdominal muscles still eventually need to work to support the torso without any assistance. Prolonged use of these belts prevents the abdominals from strengthening throughout normal daily activities. As the body recovers, decrease use of the belt. Additionally, if pain continues the problem could be something more serious and should be examined by a physician.
In order to strengthen the abdominals, begin an exercise program as soon as the physician permits. Begin with light exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor, abdominals and lower back. Kegel exercises work to tighten these muscles by a series of isometric contractions in which you squeeze the pelvic floor muscles as if you wanted to stop the flow of urine. Planks, which you perform from a prone position on the floor, holding the body up on the elbows and knees or toes, work the abdominal stabilizer muscles to strengthen the entire torso.