It is common for women to bind their bellies after giving birth in many cultures around the world, and more and more wraps and binders and braces are hitting the market as core health takes center stage. However, not all of them are alike, and some can do more harm than good. When done in concert with some basic restorative exercises, we can help your diastasis recti (DR) to heal faster by offering your core some additional external support after your birth, major weight loss, or abdominal surgery like c-section or hernia repair.
Binding the belly {splinting} right after birth helps reduce pain, instability and panic right after birth PLUS it hastens recovery of the abdominal fascia as it helps the two sides of the abs reapproximate together faster.

I like to call it splinting, even more than binding or bracing which hint at constriction, and I never recommend stand-alone splinting without the proper exercises to go with it. In our “Start Here” section which contains our foundational five “F5″ routines, Fit2B provides the basic exercises which should be done alongside splinting, and since we believe hands-on help is often critical for complete restoration, we also refer out to physical therapists from our Directory of Diastasis Experts to whom I’d trust my own tummy.

Based on the case studies and expertise of licensed neuromuscular physical therapist and core rehabilitation expert, Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team, I recommend supporting the core with a non-constrictive splint during pregnancy if a diastasis recti (DR) exists that is deep and wider than 3 finger-widths. Typically, a DR doesn’t get that wide and deep until the 2nd or 3rd trimester, but with subsequent pregnancies it may be necessary to splint in the 1st trimester if the DR is already wide or there is physical or emotional instability. Kelly recommends wrapping if a person is dealing with depression or anxiety to immediately stabilize and calm their senses while nurturing a hug of core security. Indeed, she and I have witness many women instantl shift emotional gears as soon as their splint is securely in place. The transformation is incredible!

So again, I recommend splinting when a DR is 3 finger-widths or wider, and Kelly presented a strong case at her continuing education workshop for splinting to help post-partum depression regardless of presence of diastasis recti.

Gave birth this morning to our sweet second daughter (10lbs 12oz!) after about 4 hours of labor and just want to say I am SO thankful for my Scott splint. I put it on as soon as I got up to clean up and it is helping so so much with my pain, and with the weakness and dizziness I felt when I stood up, with my balance…everything! I am stunned with the difference and with how good I feel. And dismayed that every new momma doesn’t have access to or knowledge of splinting! I mean the feeling of stability and security that it offers in such a vulnerable time is phenomenal. It’s a shame that every hospital doesn’t provide this as a standard of care for postpartum women! And Kelly’s recommendation on size was spot on. So thanks, Kelly and Scott binder! And of course, thanks to fit2b for everything. -Catie W.

 

I firmly believe we need to get a splint and a list of basic belly-breathing and pelvic floor exercises + some simple alignment tips into the hands of each new mom within hours after she has her baby. I believe it should be standard operation procedure in birth centers and hospitals worldwide. With surgical births, a few extra days might be needed for the wound to heal before wrapping, but I’ve spoken with labor and delivery nurses who splint their c-mamas right off and ones who wait, and as long as the dressing is being tended and allowed breaks to breathe, the benefits of immediate splinting in terms of faster recovery far outweigh any possible risks. I’ve got hundreds of stories to share with you if you have questions on this.

I used a splint after my fourth c-section. I waited until day 10 and i feel was really helpful. splinting gave me great support and it helped with the terrible back ache I’ve suffered with after my precious babies. I felt it was extra helpful to keep me in check with my alignment. (It was not very comfortable if I decided to hunch over or tuck my tailbone, especially while nursing constantly. By 10 weeks my diastisis was at a 1, from a 3. I was not super diligent with working out, just kept to proper alignment, some belly breathes and a few pulses here and there. I really feel the splint helped postpartum recovery for me. I also found that I have feeling between my belly button and scar, it has been numb since my first c section, 6 years ago. The only difference has been splinting and tummy safe exercising. – Kara E.

Because, let’s just think about this for a minute: How does a tired mama feeding a hungry newborn in awkward positions for 11-12 hours a day during those first weeks just “sit up straight” and wait for time to make her roller-coastering emotions and muddled middle better. Yes, a mummy tummy is beautiful in many ways but most women have a wide DR that falls into that 3 fingerwidth domain right after they give birth, and thus would need that support.

We don’t even have to check them! And my colleague, Lorraine Scapens, believes we should wait check a new mum’s belly for at least a few weeks postpartum because the healing tissue is so sensitive. Agreed. And we don’t need to. We know that mama needs as much support as she can get right off the bat. Don’t make her wait!!!

Read this research abstract {click} about how wearing a belt helps the core activate and reduce lower back and leg pain!

The result of NOT supporting the abs during and after pregnancy is typically an even wider diastasis recti (DR) that is harder to heal from because the more your abs separate, the longer it takes to pull them back together.

 

 

By the way, in case you’re new to Fit2B, a diastasis recti (DR) occurs when the linea alba – which is the band of connective tissue or “raphe” that holds your middle together – the vertical line in a six-pack – thins and weakens which then allows the two sides of your abdominals to shift apart. A weak transverse abdominus is a huge contributor to diastasis (die-ass-tuh-sees), and crunches will only make that pooch worse because they bulge the abs, not flatten them. During pregnancy, obesity, surgery, chronic poor posture/alignment, or other activities that stress or bulge the abdominal wall, the linea alba can be pressured out to cellophane thinness, further contributing to the vicious cycle of a weak core, incontinence, chronic lower back pain, depression and anxiety, a pregnant looking tummy when you’re not pregnant… And, just like any other severe fascial tissue or tendon injury, support and rehab are needed for this injury to the stomach wall.

True, not everyone who has a DR will have a distended “beer gut” but the sad part is that people who do have big bellies correlated to DR will chalk the pooch up to their diet, and I’ve witnessed many a person try to starve their tummy away when 6-8 weeks of rehab and a good splint is what they really need not injured. And YES GUYS GET IT TOO!

Most women will share that they feel like their bellies are broken when they are talking about their diastasis. I felt the same way: Strong yet weak and muddled and unable to push past several obstacles that aren’t discussable in polite company.

When the two sides of your abdominal wall have separated to 3 finger-widths or more, your belly will have a really hard time “getting a grip” again. Splinting does the job of the Transverse Abdominus (TvA or corset muscle) but it isn’t wise to splint without strengthening the TvA, otherwise true healing cannot take place, and the transverse will NEVER go back to doing its job.

No one would deny a cast to a woman with a broken leg and tell her, “Oh just stand right, and keep your leg muscles tight (or insert whatever glib bit of advice here) and it will get better all by itself with time.” Yet there area few popular blogs out there quoting some PT’s who say that splinting is never necessary or that it should only be done after a certain amount of time post-pregnancy and after the right exercises have been tried.

The happy part is that the injury is by no means permanent if you get the tools you need to support and retrain your core cylinder as you realign your body, but the sooner the better.

Why am I such a big believer? Because I’ve seen it help hundreds of people, and because it helped me! Two years AFTER having my last child, I found Kelly Dean and went through her program which included a splint and specific exercises and alignment changes. Just 3 weeks into her 6 week program, my incontinence, lower back pain and DR width had all significantly improved.

I wish I had done it sooner, because I suffered through several years of blaming my pregnancies for stress incontinence, lower back pain, and my residual mummy tummy … And while I truly don’t mind the extra skin and stretch marks (aka: tiger stripes) I knew something wasn’t quite right at the deeper level, and I wasn’t as strong as I could have been. If I had supported my belly and known how to target my transverse abdominus prior to having kids, I would have been that much more of a powerful mom! But my college degree and aerobics certifications literally left out TVA work because they only focused on the six-pack and the obliques. I had to hunt this info down for myself!

Again, please note is that splinting your belly will only yield long-term changes if you strengthen your core muscles at the same time. If you splint without retraining your abs to do their job, the splint becomes a crutch. We don’t want that. Splinting should be a temporary tool to help permanently recommission your God-given girdle.  We want to give your core a “tool” to get better, not a “crutch” on which to develop dependence.

Think of a splint like a walking cast: Doctors realized that when they put hard braces or casts on people with broken ankles and kept them off their feet, the unloaded bones didn’t heal as fast. If you only splint and don’t remind that broken tissue to start doing what it’s meant to do, you won’t heal as fast! If you have a really big gap, then you need to splint while learning new alignment and some simple core exercises to really get your belly flatter! We have incorporated diastasis-safe training into nearly all of our workouts, making them “tummy safe” because so many are unsure of where to go after they are done healing. If you believe that you may have a diastasis and not just a bunch of belly fat, please find a licenced ab rehab professional in your area to learn more about how you can heal.

So where do you get a good belly splint or binding?  I got my splint through my physical therapist, Kelly Dean, but you can also order a FitSplint. Please click HERE to visit my magnum opus on splinting and see which two splints I recommend. One of my members bought a Golds Gym brand wrap from Walmart and then freaked when she read the label:

“Warning: this product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm….”

There are several good abdominal splints on the market that don’t contain cancer-causing agents. I dont’ endorse any ONE in particular because I think it’s important for men and women to have CHOICES in splinting. One splint might not work for everyone due to body shape, alignment and life patterns.

 It’s not that we want your core to always be “tight.” A tight muscle isn’t a strong muscle, as Katy Bowman says. But we do need your core to return from being super stretched out to having some level of tension in it again so that it (and not your splint) is supporting your internal organs and spine the way it should! We want to recommission your deflated core into service again!

Just like anything in this world, it is possible to wear splints incorrectly and have them cause more harm than good. When they are worn too tightly, like a corset, or if you have been using a brace that doesn’t allow movement, they can create more pressure rather than relieving it. If your splint is making you leak more or it’s sabotaging your progress because you hate it, please discontinue using it until you can speak with a professional.

Often, just using one for a few weeks is all that’s needed to feel what your core should be doing. If you take it off, and your DR just opened up wide again, then something in your daily movements and alignment still needs fixing. Again, a professional can help you sort out what you need to be doing.

 READ MORE ABOUT SPLINTING HERE

Explore our “Experts on Diastasis Recti” ecourse here

BOOK A CONSULT WITH ME HERE

If you aren’t yet a member, please subscribe to our newsletter to get a free 10-minute “Totally Transverse” routine that you can just click play and watch today!


23 comments:

  1. Jennifer

    October 13, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Thanks for this. I am pregnant with #4 and found info on this a while after I had #3 but thought it was too late to make much of a difference. I’m going to be prepared after this one is born! I plan on having all of this stuff at home and ready so I can get started right away!

    Reply
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  4. Lani

    October 15, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing this important info. I’ll definitely be sharing on facebook!

    Reply
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  10. Katie

    August 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    I used a Belly Bandit (purchased on Craigslist) for a few weeks after the birth of my daughter was born and not only did it help a lot, it felt good! After giving birth, I (as many do) had extra skin and ‘stuff’ around my belly and that pressure felt great! The Belly Bandit wasn’t perfect in that I have wide hips and a small waist, so I often had to tug it back down into place, but my uterus returned to its pre-pregnancy size in record time and I quickly not only dropped my baby weight, but also went under pre-pregnancy weight (I am sure this is due to many contributing factors, including the belly binding). Thank you for sharing this information, this is a widely unknown practice in the US, but it is wonderful!

    Reply
  11. Meri Haertel

    August 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I came across this article a few months ago and I just had my baby on Friday. I have been trying to find something to bind my belly, but in all the research I have done, I haven’t been convinced that any of the products on amazon or belly bandit are the best way to bind. You said you got yours from thetummyteam.com but I didn’t see where you could purchase them. What do you recommend? This is my 4th and possibly last baby and my abs have felt so sore since having her, so I think binding my belly will be really helpful. Thanks for the help and I’m excited to get to the point to do the exercises.

    Reply
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  13. Shasta

    December 4, 2012 at 11:58 am

    After 5 children ranging in age from 21 – 7 years old, and one, possibly 2, miscarriages, I wonder if belly binding would help me. I am small, 5’1″, but I weigh 125-130 pounds, and my waist is staying at a stubborn 30-31″. My back hurts all of the time, and I usually blame it on falling 40′ back when I was 17, then the births of my children. The last 2 were particularly hard births–all but the first were Pitocin inductions. My kids and I walk most days (2-3 miles), and I do a workout routine on the days when we don’t walk. I thank you for any advice.

    Reply
  14. Nanci

    April 1, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I just wanted to add that I started splinting (soon after I found out about diastasis from Fit2B) now that the youngest of my 6 children is 2 1/2 years old.
    I wish I had known this sooner!
    Splinting along with Bethany’s exercises has really helped me heal.

    The splint I bought was Gabrialla from Target, just to give some other options if you can’t afford the higher priced ones. (If you have the Target Red Card you get 5% off and free shipping) It’s less expensive than some of the other ones, and highly effective. It’s comfortable, too. I agree with the reviewer that said to buy a size smaller than you think you need.
    http://www.target.com/p/gabrialla-breathable-elastic-abdominal-binder-white-9-wide/-/A-10950836#prodSlot=medium_1_2&term=Gabrialla

    Reply
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  17. Sara shay

    May 21, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    So I am looking at the one for “pear shaped” but it isn’t very long. I.m afraid it’s just going to give me 2 pooches :/ should I just go for the longer one?

    Reply
    • Beth Learn

      May 22, 2013 at 7:15 am

      Hi Sara, If you have a longer torso, go ahead and get the 3 or 4 panel scott binder from Sante Mama. You can call them for further advice. They’re lovely and helpful ladies 😉

      Reply
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    March 14, 2014 at 7:43 am

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  21. Candice

    September 16, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    How soon after a c section can I wear a splint? This will be my 3rd section and I need to wear one. Thanks for all you do!

    Reply
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