A belly band provides support for your lower back, pelvis and belly (abdomen). As your baby grows in size, your posture changes and your pelvic tissues soften to prepare for childbirth. These normal changes can cause a common problem known as pelvic instability. Pregnancy causes pelvic instability when the pelvic joints start to move more causing pain and difficulty walking, particularly towards the end of the day. This condition tends to worsen as pregnancy progresses unless correctly managed.
Pelvic pain causes the supportive pelvic muscles to stop working well. This often becomes a cycle of increasing pain and pelvic instability. Wearing a belly band or quality support (SIJ) brace can prevent and manage the pain and limited movement caused by pelvic instability.
A quality pelvic brace can provide the added support that your muscles and support tissues can’t provide to keep your pelvis stable. This is one reason why many women with moderate to severe pelvic instability can experience immediate relief when wearing a pelvic brace.
Wearing a light-weight belly band can provide some support for women with mild pelvic instability and/or lower back pain. Many women like to wear a belly band for lightweight core support during pregnancy and after childbirth.
Pregnant women often ask whether their muscles will get weaker from wearing a belly band. Specialized pelvic stability core muscle exercises during pregnancy are important to help maintain muscle strength. These exercises can improve the overall outcome of wearing a brace or a belly band. A trained women’s health Physiotherapist can provide you with specialized exercises for pelvic instability during pregnancy and after childbirth.
The most common risk factors for pelvic instability include hypermobile joints, muscle weakness, being overweight and poor posture. Pelvic instability is usually relieved after childbirth however some women need to continue to wear a belly belt for some months post partum to help them manage the physical demands of caring for their baby. During this time support can assist while their hormones return to normal, body weight decreases and muscle strength is restored. Women that experience pelvic instability in a pregnancy are likely to experience this condition in subsequent pregnancies.
Symptoms of pelvic instability
Typical symptoms associated with pelvic instability include:
- Buttock pain and lower back pain (often one side). Pain may radiate down the back of the leg.
- Pubic bone pain (directly beneath pubic hair) or groin pain
- Pain increased with standing up, walking, standing on one leg and using stairs
- Buttock and lower back muscle spasm
- Bladder control problems (with severe pain and instability).
When to wear a belly band or a pelvic support brace
Wearing a pelvic brace or a belly band usually depends on your condition and level if pain.
Some women with moderate to severe pelvic instability need to start wearing a firm supportive pelvic brace from 14 weeks onwards during pregnancy. With severe instability the brace is often worn at all times when standing and walking and taken off when resting sitting or lying down. Moderate to severe pelvic instability tends to cause sharp buttock and/or pubic pain and difficulty walking.
Women with mild pelvic instability may find that a more flexible brace or a belly band provides sufficient support to relieve pain relive pain and move with more comfort. A fashion brand that you wear over your clothes may look great, but will do little to improve stability. Mild instability may be associated with slight muscle spasm and occasional discomfort in one of the buttocks when walking or using stairs..
It’s important to invest in a good quality pelvic brace that provides firm and adjustable support. If this is your first pregnancy and you plan on future pregnancies you will benefit from getting the best quality most durable belt possible as you’re likely to wear it again during future pregnancies.
How to test if a belly band is for you
To see if a belly band is right for you, you can try tying a large scarf around your your hips. So that it wraps and below your lower abdomen (not tightly over your baby). Alternatively you may notice that wearing firm support briefs or bike exercise leggings provide you with a sense of support and relief when you’re standing and walking.
Your women’s health physiotherapist can help you manage and recover from pelvic instability to provide relief during pregnancy and help you recover faster after childbirth.