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Comparison Shopping for Mommy: The Shapewear Debate

I spoke with a new mother yesterday.   “Marsha” just delivered her second child less than a week ago.  She came across our website as she was researching and comparison shopping for postpartum girdles and post pregnancy belly binding methods.  Marsha made it quite clear to me that all she cared about was making her belly flat, like it was before she had her baby.

Right off the bat she said, “I want you to tell me why I should use your product instead of other products on the Internet, some of which are endorsed or designed by celebrities who look fabulous shortly after giving birth.”

Wow…where do I begin?  The internet is full of companies selling belly wraps, abdominal binders, bodyshapers, and girdles that are conveniently labeled as “postpartum products.”  Understandably, Marsha was skeptical and overwhelmed by all the gimmicks out there that target new mothers.

Many of these companies make unfounded claims that their postpartum compression girdle or wrap will shrink your uterus, tighten your abdominal muscles, fade stretch marks, and return you to your pre pregnancy figure in no time.  It reminds me of all those “miracle” diet pills that help you lose weight while you eat all the foods you love and don’t exercise.

Marsha is a fan of shapewear and thinks it’s an excellent way to smooth and slim your body for a specific outfit, especially an event.  “I wore one at a wedding last June,” said Marsha.  “It made me feel great in my dress, but I’m just not sure if it’s what I need for my post baby body.”

Could she have given me a better lead in???  Okay, where is that soap box?

During pregnancy, musculoskeletal changes are stimulated by hormone secretions and the continuous expansion of the uterus.  Some of these changes include:

Abdominal Wall Expansion and Abdominal Separation (Diastasis Recti):

The growing fetus can stretch the abdominal as much as 50 percent.  Abdominal muscles are joined by a narrow fibrous strip that thins as it stretches.  It is vital that the abdominal wall returns to its pre pregnancy location to protect internal organs and properly support the torso.

Spine and Posture Realignment:

Posture is greatly affected as a baby grows larger in the womb.  The pelvis tips forward to counterbalance the baby’s weight, which causes the pubic bones and tailbone to move backward, increasing the arch in the lower spine and creating a lordotic posture.  The upper spine simultaneously responds to this structural change by increasing its curvature, which rounds the shoulders forward, collapses the chest inward, and slides the head forward, creating a kyphotic posture.   The combination of the kyphotic/lordotic posture results in the classic “S” shaped spine of a pregnant woman and is a direct result of a shifting center of gravity.

This shifting of a woman’s center of gravity and spine can affect the nervous system and cause aching, weakness, and numbness in the body.

Pelvic Floor Relaxation:

The pelvic floor provides balance, body stabilization, and vital organ support.  The pelvic floor is the base of the core muscle system, attaching to the abdominal muscles and the sacroiliac joints.  During pregnancy, hormones cause ligaments to stretch, which loosens the pelvic floor structure.  This natural realignment allows the pelvic bones to open for the baby’s birth and makes you feel a bit wobbly on your feet.

After the birth of your baby, the pelvic floor can remain loose and unstable for up to 5 months.  Because the pelvic floor acts as the support system for the lower intestine, colon, and bladder, these vital organs may be less supported for a few months immediately postpartum.  This lack of organ support is the primary reason why women suffer incontinence when coughing, sneezing, or laughing after giving birth.

Clearly, a postpartum girdle has a big job to do.

Marsha was blown away by my explanation of why her body needs proper support and quickly revaluated her stance on why she wanted a postpartum girdle.  When she realized that a properly designed and manufactured postpartum body garment would provide 360 degree support to assist in abdominal wall muscle retraction, improve her posture, stabilize her loosened ligaments, and provide support to her torso while her vital organs returned to their pre pregnancy position, suddenly, her primary focus was no longer having a flat stomach.

Smart girl!

To learn more about postpartum physiology and how proper support can help your body after baby, please read The Role of Support Garments for the Changing Physiology of the Pregnant and Postpartum Body.

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