We often get a question, here at legacy physical therapy, from pregnant & postpartum moms, and it is whether or not they should be wearing some type of abdominal support or brace after they deliver the baby. So to brace or not to brace?
Braces are not the end all be all that can just make the abdominal muscles heal themselves, but in the right situation, wearing abdominal support after you deliver can be very helpful.
We do recommend that most women wear gentle abdominal support and gentle compression over the abdominal area immediately after they deliver for the first couple weeks because these muscles got very stretched out. The use of the abdominal splint can just help to support that stretched out healing tissue in a more comfortable position. It can help take some of the pressure off your back and help eliminate some of the strain to the healing tissue.
However, there can be some situations, like if the brace is worn too tight or too long and there has been no attempt to rehab the muscles, it can lead to abdominal muscle atrophy and a disconnect between your brain and your core muscles and can lead to further dependence of the brace than necessary. We encourage people to think of the abdominal brace as an aid in assisting your healing, bracing alone is not going to get the abs recovered after delivery.
When wearing the abdominal brace, it should be worn snuggly, but not tight to a point of cutting off circulation. We describe it as feeling like you are being “gently hugged” The first few weeks postpartum, you may find it comfortable to wear the brace the majority of the time that you are up and moving around, but over time as you are feeling more support through the abdominal muscles, you may want to wean out of it and only wear it when you are being more active. It’s important to also spend time out of the splint, to allow the skin to breathe. We do recommend taking the brace off at night unless you are having issues getting a comfortable sleep.
The abdominal support alone is not going to fix lack of core support and get the abdominal muscles doing what they should be doing. If you are unsure of how to get your abdominal muscles rehabbed, we recommend partnering with a pelvic floor physical therapist.
Here at legacy, we regularly help patients with their postpartum core recovery. A PT can help identify areas that you need to work on so that you feel strong and supported and can take care of your baby the way that you want to. So if after reading this, you’re wondering if you’re having issues and what you should be doing, please reach out to us, we would be happy to start you on your core recovery journey.