Do Postpartum Belts Really Work?

Corsets and other postpartum waist trainers may be trendy, but do they really work? We asked the experts if you can corset your way back to your pre-baby body.

Postpartum body: new mom holding baby

Many new parents attempt to banish their post-baby bellies with various diet and exercise plans, but some are turning to a 16th-century throwback: the corset. And while you may be thinking of those whalebone numbers that take eons to lace up, the modern-day equivalent, the belly wrap, is easy to wear and has a loyal following. But are postpartum belts and waist trainers safe, and do they really work? Read on to find out.

What is Postpartum Waist Training?

Many celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Kim Zolciak, Jessica Alba, Ciara, Brooke Burke-Charvet, and JWoww and Snooki from The Jersey Shore claim that waist cinching helped their bodies bounce back after having a baby. But plenty of non-celebrity parents have turned to postpartum waist trainers, too.

"Waist training is the act of tightly wrapping your midsection—from the bottom of your ribs to your lower waist—with a corset or supportive band to gradually reduce your natural waist," says Sherry Ross, M.D., an OB-GYN and women's health specialist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "Most claim that tightening the waist trainer promotes thermal activity and perspiration that triggers fat loss. The process allegedly also causes reshaping and slimming."

Do Postpartum Weight Trainers Work?

Trying to decide if postpartum support belts are worth the effort? First, let's take a look at post-birth biology: "With all the fluid and hormonal shifts that take place during pregnancy, the amount of water retention after birth can be intense, uncomfortable, and a bit shocking," says Dr. Ross. "For many, this post-birth water retention is worse during that first week after delivery than during the pregnancy."

It takes about two weeks for the abrupt retention to dissipate and about another two weeks for the remainder to fade.

Meanwhile, a new parent is still waiting for their uterus to shrink from the size of a watermelon to the size of a pear, which can take up to six weeks, says Dr. Ross. So all this fluid loss and belly shrinkage naturally occur whether you wear a postpartum belly belt or not.

"Waist trainers and belly wraps often claim that they can help relieve water retention and shrink the uterus faster, but this is in no way medically proven," says Dr. Ross. In fact, there have been no studies showing that postpartum recovery belts help with weight loss.

Think of it this way: "Pretend your middle is a soft but full balloon, and you tie a string around it. What happens?" asks Holly Perkins, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and author of Lift to Get Lean. "The air gets displaced and moves to the outer edges of the balloon. That's what happens when you use a waist cincher. You displace water, even organs, and soft tissue. You do not change fat composition or deposit."

Should You Try a Postpartum Belly Belt?

If you're aiming for a temporary slimming effect, there's no harm in trying out a postpartum belly belt. "Corsets are ideal for a night out on the town," says Dr. Ross. "It'll definitely support a saggy belly and give you mental and physical confidence to wear that picture-perfect dress."

But if a new parent wants to wear an optional postpartum undergarment, Dr. Ross would much rather they choose compression shorts.

"Graduated compression shorts can play an important role in adding support to the pelvis, hips, and thighs immediately postpartum—and help with lymphatic flow," notes Marianne Ryan, a physical therapist in New York City, who often recommends compression shorts to her postpartum clients.

Plus, notes Dr. Ross, "the physical and emotional effects of supporting this traumatized area of the body help in the healing process."

Do Postpartum Belts Help C-Section Recovery?

What about postpartum belts catered to those who underwent a C-section? According to some product descriptions, a C-section postpartum belt may strengthen the abdominal muscles, help heal your C-section scar, and prevent infection. They might be correct.

In a comprehensive review of research, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that belly bands may benefit those who have cesarean sections. A C-section is considered major surgery, and during recovery, there are issues from wound care to pain management to be considered. Researchers found that belly bands can decrease pain and offer lower back support.

Corsets and belly bands will not shrink the waistline; however, they can assist in the healing process for C-section recovery. Talk to your doctor about using this garment after your C-section surgery.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles