Do Maternity Belts Work?

It's no secret that all that extra weight pregnant women carry around can cause a ton of aches and pains ... thus the rise of maternity belts and support bands, also known as "prenatal cradles" -- elastic garments that fit under (and sometimes over) the belly to offer some added support. Sure, they don't look all that attractive, but those last few months of pregnancy are desperate times when women will try just about anything for relief. Yet experts remain mixed on whether these garments really work or might carry potential for harm.


"While many women swear by their pregnancy cradle, there is no hard and fast evidence that they actually help improve back pain or pelvic pain any better than the other interventions that are commonly used for these problems, such as exercise, chiropractic adjustments, or nerve modulation," says Jennifer Lincoln, MD, OB/GYN at Bundoo, a site where parents can consult doctors online. That said, "considering relief can be subjective, it may be worth a try for a pregnant woman who has bad back pain and wants to avoid taking medication. They can also be nice for women carrying multiples or those who have a history of chronic back pain." 

While maternity belts aren't well studied, Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA, warns that they could cause pain -- or complications with the baby. "Research on support garments has shown negative side effects to include skin irritation, increased pain, and change in fetal heart rate," she says. "These garments can increase pressure and heat for the baby in ways your little guy might not appreciate."

More from The Stir: 9 Natural Pain Relievers Safe to Use During Pregnancy (PHOTOS)

Finding the right fit and size, however, could help boost the odds of a positive experience. "When buying a cradle, keep in mind many are weight-specific," says Dr. Lincoln. "Be sure that they are appropriately adjusted and there is no discomfort when wearing it. If you have trouble breathing or you feel it is too tight around your abdomen, be sure to readjust or purchase a different size."

As an alternative approach to pain relief, "consider finding a movement class or video that can help you develop the necessary muscle strength for support," Bowman suggests. That is, condition your own body to be its own maternity belt. It may be more work, but why bother squeezing into a tight-fitting garment if you don't have to?

Have you tried a maternity belt (support band or prenatal cradle)?


Image © Odilon Dimier/PhotoAlto/Corbis

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