Will belly wraps help a woman get her figure back after pregnancy or are they just another get-skinny-quick gimmick?
Fans say that these girdle-like garments essentially shrink-wrap the tummy, which may ease the swelling of the uterus while supporting the legs and back.
But others say that's an illusion, and the only way to get back in shape after pregnancy is by eating a healthy diet and exercising. Still others strike it in the middle by saying these belly bands may have a role alongside healthy eating and fitness.
Before you buy one, here's what to know.
Belly Wraps: New Name for Old Concept
Although today’s belly wraps are trendy, belly wraps (also known as abdominal binders) have actually been around for a long time, says Donnica Moore, MD, president of the Sapphire Women’s Health Group in Far Hills, N.J. and an author of Women’s Health for Life .
“This is not a new thing,” she says. “Belly wraps were used for people with back pain because they increased abdominal support, which helped people with back pain get around better."
Jay Goldberg, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Beverly Hills, Calif., agrees. "We have been prescribing abdominal binders for a long time. They have been used for tummy tucks and back problems, but with obstetrics these wraps help women recovering from a vaginal delivery or a C-section with their posture, abdominal support, and self-confidence.”
The gentle compression on the abs may help the uterus return to its normal size quicker, so new moms may get rid of their still-pregnant-looking-belly quicker, Moore says.
Another belly wrap bonus: “You may feel more comfortable and may feel like moving more and the more you move and exercise, the quicker you get your figure back,” Moore says.
Goldberg recommends the Belly Bandit to his patients as part of a postpartum plan, but he says the belly wrap won't help you get back your pre-pregnancy figure in a week. He says women can put it on after delivery and recommends they wear it for four to six weeks after delivery to reap the maximum benefits.
“If the cost won’t break the bank, they are not a bad idea,” Moore says.
Belly wraps cost anywhere from $20 to $50, depending on the make and model. They are not all one-size-fits-all, and women may need to buy several sizes as their girth decreases.
Belly Wraps: Wishful Thinking?
Some doctors, including Saul Weinreb, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist in Baltimore, are less enthused about belly wraps.
“Belly bands don’t help you get your body back any better than any other body-shaping clothing that people try to use to get themselves into shape,” he tells WebMD. “Of course, when used, they may help you fit better into some clothing, but there is no evidence that your body shape can truly improve because of a belly band.”
“You need a comprehensive program that is 50% food and 50% exercise, particularly post-pregnancy,” says Stuart Fischer, MD, author of The Park Avenue Diet . “You can’t lose weight and maintain that loss without doing both."
“Belly wraps have no place in getting back into shape after pregnancy,” says Sheryl Wilson, a mom and president of Fitnotic, a New York fitness company.
Wilson says she understands why new moms might want to try belly wraps. "It’s appealing to think ‘if I strap this on, it will help.’”
But that’s just wishful thinking, she says.
“These wraps are no substitute for exercising and healthy eating generally in life or after pregnancy,” she says. They may actually do new moms a disservice. “We have to consciously work to strengthen and engage our core muscles, and we use less of our abdominal muscles when wearing wraps."
Seattle mom Ashley Allman loved her belly wrap after having her son.
“I wasn’t using it for my figure; it was more to support my lower back,” says Allman. She says she gained 45 pounds during her pregnancy, but was back into her pre-pregnancy jeans by the time he was 8 weeks old. She credits a belly wrap because she wasn’t consciously dieting or exercising .
"They really helped me," she says. "From now on, I plan to give belly wraps to all of my pregnant girlfriends."