Q&A: Post-Partum Girdles

Everything you wanted to know about post-partum girdles but were afraid to ask

Mother cradling newborn infant
Nick Stevens / Cultura / Getty Images

Post-partum support comes in many forms... your mother-in-law babysitting, La Leche league meetings and Chinese take-out. Fifty year ago, however, new mothers knew that it meant one thing and one thing only: post-partum girdles. Even the word makes us shiver with horror as it conjures up images of wasp-waisted women suffering in the name of beauty.

Before you count them out just yet, consider the rich history of post-partum girdles: Women routinely bind their tummies after childbirth for the first month or two in virtually every country on the globe...

and have been doing so for thousands of years. Most women living in Western countries rejected the practice as feminism took hold, believing that girdles - like those infamous Victorian corsets - were a sign of oppression and restriction.

The benefits, however, might be more liberating that you realize, now that the stigma and the perceived discomfort of wearing a girdle are things of the past.

A Few Common Questions About Post-Partum Support Girdles

Q. What are post-partum girdles supposed to do?

A. Claims range from improving lymphatic drainage and helping with water retention to actually getting your pre-baby body back faster and helping with diastasis recti. Other claims include lessening post-partum bleeding, alleviating cramping and back pain, and allowing your uterus to its return to normal size and location quicker.

Q. Do they really work?

A. Compression has been proven an effective remedy against ​water retention - binding swollen legs and arms has helped countless edema sufferers, after all.

The firm support also instantly improves bad posture, which in turn can have many physical benefits. You won't be able to slouch while breastfeeding, and back pain is certainly improved by better posture. One thing we know for sure: If it makes you feel better and it doesn't hurt you, then why not give it a try?

Q. What's the difference between a maternity support belt and a post-partum girdle?

A. Maternity belts are designed to be worn during the later stages of pregnancy and help redistribute the weight of your belly, thereby reducing pelvic and back pain. Post-partum girdles are designed to instantly compress your abdominal area into shape after the baby is born, providing very firm support and constrict. Some post-partum girdles are indeed belts, while others are garments with crotch and leg openings like underwear.

Q. Will it help me recover from my C-section faster?

A. The jury is still out on this one. There is no scientific data that concludes that wearing a post-partum girdle will actually help your internal organs assume their proper positions faster or allow the would to heal quicker after a c-section, but it will definitely help improve your comfort. The added support of a post-partum girdle will take the fear out of coughing, laughing and getting up from the couch or bed since your stitches or staples will be firmly supported. This, in turn, will prevent reopening the wound and therefore you may indeed heal faster.

Q. Should I wear it every day?

A. Yes - wear it every day all day, asleep or awake, for at least the first week to achieve the most benefits.

Some women choose to extend that to two to three weeks after giving birth. (You'll be surprised how addictive these things are!) After that, many women move on to a kinder gentler​ post-partum support belt.

Q. How do you go to the bathroom in a girdle?

A. Underwear or pull-up style girdles can be raised and lowered like regular panties, though they are quite a bit tighter and might require some wiggling and/or elbow grease to get in and out of. Most medical-grade post-partum binders have a crotch flap to accommodate bathroom breaks. When you shop for girdles, make sure you try the snaps and find them easy to close and open, since you will definitely be using them quite a bit, what with all the peeing and pad-changing that will be happening in the days and weeks after you give birth. Thankfully, these crotch snaps or hooks are generally placed higher up in the front on post-partum girdles, since bending down can be tricky and your belly will probably still be getting in the way, at least in the beginning.

The Best Belts on the Market

If you think you may be ready to take the next step - actually wearing one! - there are so many great post-partum belts and girdles to choose from. Whether you buy in person or online, make sure to get good advice from the seller on the right size and fit for you, since that can make all the difference between a positive girdle experience and a negative one.

5 Great Post-Partum Girdles

4 Band-Style Post-Partum Support Belts to Try