21st February 2014
Every woman’s stomach muscles widen and stretch during pregnancy - some more than others. During my third trimester I discovered my abdominal muscles were separating more than what is considered normal – this is a condition called Diastasis Recti. It meant I would have to deal with extreme ‘mummy tummy’ after I gave birth.
In some parts of the world, woman use post-natal compression garments such as corsets to help their muscles come back together. Mum of two and actress Jessica Alba has talked about how she ''wore a double corset day and night for three months'' after the birth of her youngest daughter. As great as she looks, I knew the first few weeks of being a mum would be hard enough for me without putting that kind of pressure on myself to lose my belly. But I was keen on drafting in some help to deal with my muscle separation.
Enter belly bands - there are dozens of them available online. I decided to try out a couple from Macom Medical and Vespa and The Ladybird. In the final few weeks of pregnancy, I ordered this post-natal compression corset and this post pregnancy belly wrap. My physiotherapist gave me a big piece of tubigrip to try as well.
I must confess I completely forgot to try any of the compression garments in the first few days after giving birth. Those days were a total blur! When my daughter was about a week old, I picked up the Macom corset and realised I had been too ambitious with sizing – there was no way I was ever going to get the eye hooks to fasten.
I also had trouble fastening the Vespa belly wrap across me properly. As my hips are a lot wider than my waist, the wrap didn’t feel snug if I tried to accommodate my hips. I emailed the company who assured me I had the right size and suggested I wear it a bit higher and affix the Velcro on a diagonal to allow for my hips. The wrap did feel tighter if I wore it this way but it only fitted under very loose clothing so I was only able to wear it around the house. I think this wrap would be better suited to someone with less of an hourglass figure.
As it turns out, it was the simple tubigrip band that was the easiest compression product to wear in those first few weeks. It really helped to hold in all the loose skin and extra fat my body now had and reminded me to correct my posture when I was out and about. It was also thin enough to wear under normal clothing without adding extra bulk. In fact, it made me look slimmer than I was.
Three weeks after giving birth I contacted Macom Medical about getting a bigger corset and they suggested I try their post-natal compression girdle in a bigger size instead of swapping the corset. It takes a good couple of minutes to squeeze into, but it is comfortable once it is on and instantly gives me more of a streamline figure. Three months down the line, I still wear this girdle if I’m going out and need to squeeze into any of my pre-pregnancy clothes.
I lent the extra-small Macom corset to a friend of mine whose has always been extra-small and remains so post-pregnancy. This is her verdict: ‘’This corset is amazing! It manages to give me a streamline figure, erasing the dreaded mummy tummy. It takes a little bit of pressure off me to lose the weight too quickly because I can easily fit back into my pre-pregnancy dresses with this lovely contraption! It is comfortable and looks quite feminine.’’
Before giving birth, I thought I'd wear one of the post-natal corsets everyday to help me get back into shape. But in reality, I find them too uncomfortable while breastfeeding and I don't have the energy to keep taking one on and off all day. Four months after giving birth, the gap between my stomach muscles has become smaller, but due to my lack of dedication to the compression garments, I'm afraid I can’t say for sure how much they have helped achieve this. I think the pilates I started six weeks after giving birth may have done more for my abdominal muscles. What these compression garments have definitely done though is help me cope with the extra baby weight in these busy months when losing my baby belly is something I just don't have time to do just yet.