The benefits of postpartum belly wrapping

Pre and post natal
February 13, 2019
Kim Vopni
women_on_mat_wearing_abdominal_wrap_doing_postnatal_exercises_with_baby_beside_her

Recovering from pregnancy and birth starts while you are still pregnant. Preparing ahead of time means you have the support you need as you recover and heal. My favourite postpartum recovery strategy (technically, I guess it’s two strategies) is belly wrapping and core retraining exercise.

The goal is to minimise the impact of diastasis recti and avoid lingering postpartum core dysfunction – a topic that is rarely talked about until there is a problem and then many women find themselves saying, ‘why didn’t anyone tell me about this?’

Research is now showing that pretty much every woman will have some degree of diastasis recti during or after pregnancy. And studies also show that the first 8 weeks after your baby is born is when any spontaneous healing of the abdominal wall occurs.

Beyond the 8 weeks, change can be made with exercise but 

I believe that by harnessing the spontaneous healing time with core support and retraining,women are better off at the 8-week mark and more likely to return to optimal core function.

Women have told me, and I have experienced myself, that right after your baby is born there is a huge void between the rib cage and the pelvis, along with an overwhelming sense of instability. Women told me, and I felt myself, that I needed to hold my belly together as I moved.

And it is no wonder!

The muscles and tissues in the abdominal wall and pelvis that typically contribute to our core control stretch well beyond their optimal length in pregnancy and birth. This can affect their ability to create tension and generate support.

Belly wrapping is like a gentle hug to your pelvis and lower abdomen. It is external support while internal support is rebuilt with restorative exercise.  

Once you have that external support the key to restoring form and function is retraining the core and I recommend you do that via the pelvic floor. Wrapping supports the pelvis so that the overstretched muscles have a bit of assistance in the early weeks postpartum.

The abdominal wall and pelvic floor are intimately connected through muscles and connective tissue and need to work together for optimal core function. 

52% of women with pelvic floor dysfunction have diastasis recti so, by restoring the abdominal wall we are also aiding in the restoration of the pelvic floor. We can’t overlook how closely they are connected.

Form and force closure

The muscles and connective tissue in our core are key with regards to stability and control in our inner core and so are the bones and joints. In the pelvis, the shape of the bones provides what is called ‘form closure’ while the muscles, ligaments and connective tissue contribute to what is called ‘force closure’.

During pregnancy, biomechanical changes occur which can reduce the effectiveness of both form and force closure, such as:

  • Altered posture and load bearing.
  • Altered muscle length in the pelvic floor and abdomen (both longer and shorter) which results in a reduced ability for muscle force production.
  • Reduced muscular co-ordination.
  • The role of relaxin and progesterone is to increase the extensibility of the ligaments and smooth muscle to allow the pelvis to expand more readily for the delivery of the baby. When the ligaments are lax it affects the force closure.
  • The abdominal muscles are stretched to allow space for the enlarging uterus, which can lead to loss of muscle tone and strength in the abdominal region and a compromised ability to produce tension in the thoracolumbar fascia, resulting in reduced force closure in the pelvis.
  • Diastasis recti is a distortion in the abdominal wall and it impairs the function of the muscles including their role in posture and pelvic stability.
  • The transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor are all anticipatory muscles of the core and are required for force closure to the pelvis – all are affected by posture and alignment changes, hyper- and hypotonicity in the muscles and potential tissue injury from the birth itself.

Belly wrapping immediately postpartum for up to 8 weeks will help provide form closure, while force closure is rebuilt through restorative exercise. Think of it like a crutch after you have sprained your ankle. It is meant to provide some support and stability when the body’s ability to do so is compromised.

The mother roasting philosophy encourages rest, healing, nurturing the mother and closing the body after it ‘opened’ for birth.  Belly wrapping is an essential support element of postpartum recovery and a beautifully supportive tradition we hope more Australian and New Zealand women will embrace.

Our Bellies Inc Ab System was designed with prevention in mind and is based on the traditional practices of belly binding, or belly wrapping, that are part of mother roasting rituals in countries like Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan.

The aim of the Ab System is to help women prepare, recover and restore.  It includes:

  • Prenatal core exercises to prepare for birth
  • The Ab Wrap to help support the core in the early weeks postpartum, and
  • An 8-week online restorative exercise program to help retrain the inner core unit.  

We advise that the wrap be put on from the bottom up and around the pelvis and lower abdomen as opposed to the waist. This helps avoid creating downward pressure on the pelvic floor.

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