Ah, Spanx: Where would women be without these miracle undergarments that squeeze and shape flab into a more flattering silhouette? Plus, now it has a line of maternity wear so that even pregnant ladies can look fabulous. Still, though, moms-to-be might wonder whether wearing tight underclothes could be bad for their unborn baby: After all, it's cramped enough in there, and now you're constricting things further. Baby could be getting mighty uncomfortable ... or come out with a cone head.
So far, the jury is still out on whether Spanx are safe or risky for pregnant women to wear, but doctors do have some concerns based on the sheer biomechanics of these types of garments. "Although we do not have any medical evidence indicating that tight clothing leads directly to adverse effects on your pregnancy, we do know that tight clothes can make a pregnant woman uncomfortable," says Jenny Jaque, MD, an OB/GYN at the online health magazine Health Goes Female. "For instance, it can cause abdominal pain, acid reflux, and reduced blood circulation, leading to numbness and weakness in the legs. Tight clothes can also increase sweat production down near your privates, resulting in yeast infections, which are more common during pregnancy already. So pregnant woman should decrease their risk of developing yeast infections as much as possible."
Meanwhile Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA, points out that even non-pregnant women can suffer side effects from constricting garments, so pregnant women would be smart to steer clear. "In non-pregnant women, support wear has been shown to negatively impact digestion, breathing, and continence," she points out. "Why? You’re not a Nerf ball, you’re a person. Pressing your belly in toward your spine means your guts have to go up toward your diaphragm, making breathing or digestion more difficult, or down, increasing the strain on the pelvic floor."
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Now, imagine all of this happening in a pregnant body. Not pretty, right? "Because pressures applied externally to the mother could easily be applied to the uterus -- and then to the baby -- support wear can be an unnatural environment for the baby," says Bowman. "You might not want your belly to move, but your baby wants to be able to move, and even though you can’t usually feel it, babies are moving as early as seven to eight weeks. In the medical community, compressive garments are regularly used to increase abdominal pressure or keep fluid pressed out of an area. I’m not sure one would want either of these things while pregnant."
Another other possible consideration is core temperature. "The material in most garments like these is synthetic -- breathes like plastic -- and can heat the abdomen," Bowman explains. And studies show that an elevated body temperature in the first trimester can lead to neural tube defects in the fetus and miscarriage, or other problems later on in the pregnancy like dehydration in the mom.
Given all these potential problems with Spanx, girdles, or other tight-fitting clothing, what's a pregnant gal to do if she wants to evoke some semblance of svelte? "If you’re interested in decreasing the appearance of your baby bump, I’d invest in a well-cut, flattering outfit instead of an item that actually decreases the biological size of your bump," says Bowman. "Or invest your Spanx dollars in some pregnancy-specific movement classes where you can learn how to strengthen those baby-supporting muscles."
Or hey, just accept it: You're pregnant! Your baby bump's big and beautiful, just as it is.
Image via Jon/Flickr