In women’s health and fitness circles, Julie Wiebe doesn’t need an introduction. She’s a world-renowned sports medicine and women’s health physiotherapist whose passion is helping women return to fitness after giving birth. Julie’s evidence-based approach to post-pregnancy rehabilitation promotes diaphragm and pelvic floor integration, strengthening women’s cores for function in fitness and in life.
Discussing Postpartum Belly Wraps with Julie Wiebe, Women’s Health Physiotherapist
Jen: Postpartum belly wraps (or abdominal muscle braces) have become more common in women who have given birth with many products being popularized like “The Belly Bandit.” Are these wraps effective in bringing abdominal muscles back together?
Julie: I’m not a fan of the message that every woman should wear a brace postpartum. This message seems to be stemming from the social media/blogging world and websites claiming ‘90% of women have diastasis recti.’ These websites, forums and blogs often use the ancient practice of body wrapping as support for the idea of wearing a brace after birth. However, I am unaware of research that indicates that women benefitted from this practice. Did these cultures have lower rates of all postpartum issues, not just diastasis recti? Some websites are recommending temporary bracing; others are recommending long-term bracing. Either way this promotes an over-focus on the abdominal muscles as the only muscle group to focus on for diastasis rehab.
Jen: Are there any negative repercussions of using a postpartum belly wrap?
Julie: An abdominal brace will create constant pressure in a woman’s middle, which creates pressure upwards to the diaphragm and downwards to the pelvic floor. A demonstration of this is here:
Wearing a brace can also result in women’s over-reliance on the brace, taking over the work accomplished by the abdominal muscles. This reduces the opportunity to retrain those muscles after pregnancy through day-to-day functions. The moment the brace is gone the abdomen doesn’t know what to do and many women report their diastasis returning once they stop wearing the brace. In my opinion, this is because the system of muscles and pressures that impact diastasis recti haven’t been retrained to work as a team in function.
Simply put, I don’t think a postpartum abdominal brace treats the body holistically. The body is in need of total recovery as a system, not a focus on one set of muscles.
Jen: Is there ever a scenario that would require a postpartum belly wrap?
Julie: Some do need a brace. These are women with a very large diastasis and are limited in their function due to pain or instability. This would occur when the fascia has thinned beyond the capacity for exercise alone to make an impact. But I would still try and balance all the other factors (muscles, pressures, and alignment) that influence the opening of a diastasis. You never know, and I don’t give up very easily! I think that is part of my charm.
If a woman has tried good alignment and a program promoting closure and has been unsuccessful than a brace would be a good next step. I am also experimenting with Kinesiotape. I try to get the brain and body to give it its best shot before I intervene externally. In some cases a brace can help seal the deal.
I also like the looks and idea of this abdominal brace out of Australia. It’s a pair of shorts that provides tummy support and support from below to be protective and supportive to the pelvic floor. This is a brace that keeps other parts of the system in mind. I haven’t tried one yet, but I hear good things through colleagues in Oz!
Check out Julie’s online course:
Julie offers a self-paced video series offering the latest concepts, exercises, movement strategies and body awareness tips for rehabilitating your pelvic floor, minimal to moderate prolapse, diastasis recti, and pelvic pain. The skills learned in this course can easily be integrated into your day.
Time: 1.5 hours, divided into six brief segments.
Price: $29.95 USD
Click here to find out more
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Our interview was way too long to fit into one blog post so I’ve packaged it into a four part series: ‘Fix My Pregnant Body.’ In our last post Julie and I will be talking about incontinence after pregnancy and pelvic floor issues. Subscribe to my blog (in the right hand side bar or if you’re on mobile, below) so you don’t miss out!
Fix Me After Pregnancy Series
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