Postpartum recovery - your best recommendations
July 6, 2016 6:30 AM   Subscribe

Do you have a recommendation of girdles, corsets, other tips to help in recovery after labor and beyond?

I'm 3.5 months away from the due date and am getting prepared what's coming. As I asked above, any highly recommended girdles you swear by? I used to wear steel boned corsets before getting pregnant (Orchard Corset), do you recommend using this kind of corset or should I get one specifically for postpartum? Zipper? Pull-up? So many choices. Any other tricks I should try as well? My goal is just to help recovery and minimize the pooch-iness. This is my first time at this so all help is highly appreciated!
posted by xicana63 to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know from corsets or girdles, but as for tips to prevent poochiness, any exercises which strengthen the core are going to be your friend. Sit-ups, crunches, etc.

Also, kegels to prevent peeing when you sneeze.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:36 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

None? I used my gradually deflating belly as a pillow for my baby to nap on. I can't imagine spending all those hours on the couch breastfeeding/burping/holding my baby with a corset wrapped around me, poking me or impeding my ability to perfectly mold into the shape of my couch cushions.

I am super curious to read other responses, though, as it's obvious I've missed an entire body of knowledge about modern-day corset wearing.
posted by Maarika at 6:51 AM on July 6, 2016 [20 favorites]

In the "other" category - padsickles. So soothing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:54 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I used an elasticized belly band that fastened with velcro, which... I dunno, recovery takes as long as recovery takes, you know? I wore it for a while but stopped because I had more pressing concerns and its effects didn't last more than 30 seconds after taking it off. Compressing your abdomen while your uterus and the ligaments that hold it in place are still all wonky after giving birth isn't a great idea (it can contribute to prolapse conditions).

If you have any concerns about diastasis rectii, stay far away from situps and crunches. Planks are fine, and some pilates exercises are useful. Learning how to activate your transverse abdominus is key, as is strengthening your glutes (which tend to go passive in pregnancy and contribute to pelvic floor laxity).
posted by lizifer at 7:00 AM on July 6, 2016 [9 favorites]

Are corsets comfortable to wear while sitting on the couch? Postpartum = sitting on the couch (feeding baby, holding baby) A LOT. You know more about corsets than I do, I'll just say this might not be something to pre-optimize until you've gotten a sense of what your daily routine postpartum actually is.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:12 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pouchiness is a natural event. A layer of fat remains around your midsection to help protect your hypothetical future children during gestation. The women in my family cannot get rid of this layer despite weight or fitness level, because OMG the future babies will be protected. The only sure fire way to get rid of this is liposuction. Your genetics may vary, but I'd recommend making some healthy freezer meals and subscribing to netflix as your prebirth activities.
posted by Kalmya at 7:20 AM on July 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

The thing is, recovery and how your body bounces back are both such individual things. With my firstborn, all I did after giving birth (by c-section) was breastfeed and I was back to pre-wedding weight with zero pooch in like three months. I literally did nothing extra. And he was a HUGE baby. Some of my friends had similar bounce-backs, some did not. Some did all kinds of exercising and belly-band wearing, some did not. I do wonder how much of it was the luck of my age; I was 26.

With my second, it took until she was three years old before I finally lost all the weight; she was significantly smaller than her brother and I didn't even gain as much weight with her (she as born VBAC). And they're only three years apart, so it's not like I was an advanced maternal age. I was much more focused on losing the weight the second time, too. And I also had (and still have) poochiness after the second birth.

You really aren't going to know how your body is going to bounce back until you're there. You should also speak with your OBGYN about what is recommended and/or discouraged w/r/t corset wearing after birth. You may find that it's a big no-no or that the literature just doesn't support the theory.
posted by cooker girl at 7:25 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

It can take up to a year before the fluffiness goes away. Your uterus needs to shrink back down to size (breast feeding can sometimes make this happen faster) and your organs need to shift back into place. I wouldn't put on anything too constraining until this process happens. A simple waist cincher or even those awful spanx products can hold the skin in for when you want to go out.

The first year is very difficult because as well your body shifting and adjusting, you aren't getting much sleep. Sleep deprivation is a very common cause of weight gain and weight retention. Give yourself to year two to get back to hot. And yes, the corset will be your friend then. I got down to a size zero after my third baby and still had that poochiness, which can be managed by corsets.
posted by myselfasme at 7:41 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

In contrast to the above, I was back to my pre-partum size with no poochiness about 10 days after I gave birth with literal zero effort or intent on my part. The bigger issue was the extra stretched skin that was weirdly textured for months. Make sure you're moisturizing really well to keep the skin as elastic as possible.
posted by brainmouse at 7:47 AM on July 6, 2016

After and during pregnancy, all of your ligaments are soft. Your pelvic floor and transverse abdominous in particular undergo huge changes and you probably have very little control over these muscles right now. After birth, you want to encourage your body to re-tighten ligaments and use the pelvic floor and TRA. If you are wearing a corset, you allow your body to use other muscles instead of these. I personally think wearing a corset will delay return to function. Some women regain function immediately, most take weeks or months, some take years and some never recover function.

The best thing you can do is specifically work those muscles. Here's a decent guideif you can't get a physical therapist.

If you have an uncomfortable fatty pouch and skin flap, Spanx or similar are great.
posted by littlewater at 7:49 AM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was told in no uncertain terms by my OB that post partum girdles actually encourage the pouchiness as it doesn't force your core muscles to support you and get strong again.
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:59 AM on July 6, 2016 [10 favorites]

Your abs and internal organs need to, well, figure out they don't need to be crawling into your armpits anymore. The only thing that helps is time and exercise when you're cleared. And even with exercise; genetics and the aforementioned time are much much more influential. I haven't lifted anything other than my four month old and chased anything other than my toddler and I look almost back to normal: if previous pregnancy recovery is any indication my hips will be one size wider for another six months or so and I won't look toned until probably next spring. Your body may vary.

You need comfy clothes that you'll be happy sitting in all day. Corsets are really not going to be practical for a long time, breastfeeding or no, exercising or no.
posted by lydhre at 8:03 AM on July 6, 2016

I've heard good things about the Belly Bandit.

That said, how bodies adjust after pregnancy is so individual and so hard to predict or control. Your hormones will still be wonking up your metabolism and energy level for some time to come, and you'll have a tiny adorable ball of need constantly thwarting your attempts to take care of your own body. I was totally gonna get a girdle to squish everything back into place, but then I had the baby and I was like FUCK IT, JERSEY EVERYTHING because I just could not handle the physical discomfort of shapewear on top of everything else.

If your plans to regain your figure involve any sort of diet or exercise, the best thing you can do is find a way to get some regularly scheduled time for yourself. Time to work out, time to prepare nutritious meals, time to catch up on sleep. Without enough time, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of the priority list.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:21 AM on July 6, 2016

As others have mentioned there are way too many variables for anyone to be able to predict how soon their own bodies, let alone yours, might be back to pre-pregnancy shape. With my first kid I was so flat within days of his birth that people asked me whose newborn I was toting around. With the second it took a couple of years. Two of my daughters-in-law were like me with my first. One of them was like that after her second. My third daughter-in-law is still not fitting into her pre-pregnancy clothes a year later, and she is very fit, runs and exercises a lot. She is happy and my son loves her just the way she is.

The idea of jamming yourself into confining clothes, girdles, and corsets seems unhealthy to me. You need to get your muscles to do the work you want them to do. And you need to accept that just as your life has changed with the arrival of your babe, so too has your body. You're going to love that baby and you're going to love yourself for loving that baby. And if your partner is not happy with your new body that's his (or her) problem.
posted by mareli at 8:29 AM on July 6, 2016

I had a c-section and I used belly binders for three weeks postpartum, day and night. I think they were crucial to my easy recovery. Friends who also had c-sections but did not use the binders seemed to have a much harder time getting up and around afterwards.

I bought a Belly Bandit but I do not recommend it. I was supplied a cloth medical binder at the hospital (like this) and that one was far better. It was longer so it covered the area from below the scar to my bra line, it washed well, and it was breathable. The Belly Bandit was plasticky and too expensive for the quality. The BB sizing was weird (I used a Medium even though my regular size is US 16) and it only fit for a short time because it had a suspiciously small area of velcro. So it didn't fit directly after birth, then it fit for about two weeks, and then it was too big. The cloth medical binder fit from immediately post-birth to 3-4 weeks postpartum (at least).

I stopped wearing the binders at 3 weeks postpartum and began using regular shapewear at that point. I did wear a Flexees cincher if out in public, but mostly that was just to fit into regular clothes. At home I tended to go without, as my abs were in better shape by that point.
posted by aabbbiee at 8:51 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

It goes a long way to accept that your body will never be the same again. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. This can take a load off the pressure of "pre-baby body." And while the initial physical recovery isn't very long, the temperament of the baby is an entirely different factor in getting back to exercise.

In terms of your own comfort, I found putting a pillow under my lower abdomen when I was sitting upright helped --- this was especially comfortable sitting on my bed with my back against the wall while feeding.
posted by zizzle at 9:17 AM on July 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am about 30 weeks pregnant myself right now, and plan to wear this sort of thing post-partum since I already have them on-hand.

I lost my first pregnancy (twins at 20 weeks) last year - and had bought myself a belly bandit to wear to help push things back in asap, as I'd read this was very good for quick recovery, and I was an occasional corset-wearer anyway. The pro about the belly bandit is that it's got a wide velcro strip so you can wear it for a while as you shrink in size postpartum and adjust the tightness to your comfort. It is fairly rigid though and a bit uncomfortable to sit in, as mentioned prior here - can get out of shape if you sit in it often. I tended to mainly wear it while doing upright activities (walking, running, etc.), or at night while sleeping.

I picked up some pull-up shapewear as well, in a few different sizes. I preferred ones that weren't boned for regular comfort - the boned shapewear isn't very comfortable to sit in, obviously. During the day I pretty much went with whatever was tight but still comfortable for the activity. I think I only wore the belly binding and shapewear for about a month, then it seemed things were as good as they were going to get for putting things back in place.

I also focused on a lot of core training to get my abs back into shape. As we were trying again right away I didn't lose all the weight of the first pregnancy, but was pretty happy with the flattening results overall of the combined core training plus the shapewear and belly binding.
posted by lizbunny at 10:11 AM on July 6, 2016

I was told in no uncertain terms by my OB that post partum girdles actually encourage the pouchiness as it doesn't force your core muscles to support you and get strong again.

My OB said the same.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:50 AM on July 6, 2016

One thing to know is that your body may be weird in ways far beyond poochiness. For example, walking was weird -- for a couple months, I felt like taking steps directly forward was contrary to how my legs fit in my hip sockets; I wanted to duck walk. (At four months pp, that has gone away.)

I do wish I had focused on strengthening my core sooner. My attention is turning to that, as I think it will help prevent back problems amidst all the baby carrying I'm doing. I found the info on Be Fit Mom, regarding diastasis recti and the need to strengthen your core from the inside out, to be helpful. I even bought the video.

BUT, in four months, the amount of times that I have been baby-free, not had higher priorities (showering, going to the bathroom, grabbing a bite, cutting my super long toenails), and had thirty minutes to exercise has been ... one. And I used that to swim instead. Your baby might be less of a Velcro baby, though. (Mine naps ON me and wakes up within twenty minutes of being put down, guaranteed, swaddled or not.) I have not been able to do a thirty minute exercise video once.

Instead, I'd plan to strengthen your core in short bursts of exercise. For instance, bookmark the link provided by littlewater above (thank you! I went looking for something like that and wish I'd found it earlier!) and seek similar resources. Being able to do eight minutes of exercise at a time will be more practical than firing up a thirty minute DVD.

Also, look into exercises you can do with your baby -- the local mother / baby yoga or pilates classes, nice walks to do in your neighborhood, hikes that are ideally within a twenty minute drive or so, whether there's a stroller "boot camp" type thing, and other similar ideas.

Of course, you don't know what delivery will bring. If you have a C-section, just walking to the bathroom will be a challenge for a while. We had a very minor delivery scare -- all was fine, but it was enough to remind me that it's a miracle (of nature, and of modern medicine) that we can so consistently produce babies and deliver them with both mom and baby healthy. In the face of such a massive feat, having a different figure for awhile is nothing.
posted by slidell at 10:57 AM on July 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

(Sorry if that got preachy at the end. But seriously, every time I remember the delivery, which was fairly normal as far as the utterly wild event of HAVING ANOTHER LITTLE HUMAN BEING COME OUT FROM INSIDE ONE'S OWN BODY goes, I'm just grateful that I'm physically okay and really couldn't care less that I still weigh eight pounds more.)
posted by slidell at 11:05 AM on July 6, 2016

I used a Belly Bandit for about a week after my c-section. It was nice when I was in the hospital and still resting -- the support felt good. But after I came home and started moving more, it became a hassle to keep in place after a lot of getting up and sitting down. And I was getting up and sitting down a lot, between caring for the baby and in-laws (who were supposed to be helping, but kind of weren't) and keeping up with a grueling breast pumping schedule. The Belly Bandit liked to ride up with all that activity.

I haven't lost any weight 3.5 weeks postpartum because I'm eating a lot trying to improve milk production. Prior to delivery, I was expecting to exclusively breastfeed and everybody says it melts the weight off of you, so I didn't anticipate any issues losing the weight. But my body had other plans.
posted by liet at 1:27 PM on July 6, 2016

Just a heads up -- it took a full month before I was going to the toilet and using toilet paper rather than squatting in my tub and using the hand held shower as a bidet. If I'd had to mess with corsetry or anything beyond super-comfy easy on/off clothing with a newborn I would've thrown it out the window, pleased with the hormone storm that would've permitted me to give it an undistinguished departure. The idea sounds like a punishment.

I also can't figure out any mechanism for how corsetry could help with reducing postpartum flub. If this idea worked, anybody who wanted a face lift would just go around with elastic on their head for a stint and that'd do the trick.
posted by kmennie at 2:08 PM on July 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I was told in no uncertain terms by my OB that post partum girdles actually encourage the pouchiness as it doesn't force your core muscles to support you and get strong again.

I was told this, too.

I'm currently two weeks postpartum from a scheduled c-section (my second) and am feeling great and recovering well sans belly band. I lost all the weight and then some after my first just through breastfeeding and had no "pouchiness". Fingers crossed that this holds for #2, as well.
posted by echo0720 at 6:40 PM on July 6, 2016

I've had 5 c-sections, 2 umbilical hernia and an existing diastisis recti. Yay me! Anyway, I highly recommend They sell medical grade post-partum girdles. The girdles I don't love because they dig into my short torso at the top, but you probably will not have this issue. They also sell compression underwear, which is my new favorite thing.

Read up on diastisis recti. You will not want to do crunches or similar to get rid of a mummy tummy; it will only make the problem worse.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2016

And memail me if you want more tips. I have children and information coming out my ears.
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 10:30 PM on July 6, 2016

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