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One of the more exciting aspects of being pregnant is getting to organise a whole new wardrobe. For most women there’s a delicate balance between getting what they need and not overspending. And even though pregnancy can sometimes feel like it’s lasting a lifetime, at most it’s only going to be for nine months.
Spending excessive amounts of money on a wardrobe of clothes which won’t be used once the baby is born just doesn’t make wise financial sense.
A belly band is an item of clothing and looks like a tube top or boob tube. It is a wide circular strip of fabric, which is seamless and knitted; much like a pair of pantyhose is woven. They are specially designed to fit around a pregnant mother’s mid section. Belly bands are usually made from a combination of fibres such as cotton + Elastane/Spandex or Lycra. They have to be stretchy in order to stay up and on and also to “grow” with mother’s abdomen as her pregnant belly expands.
Some belly bands are secured with a Velcro band which can be adjusted depending on the mother’s shape and size; others don’t have the option of closure and instead, are just a knitted, continuous band of elastised fabric. Belly bands with wider, rather than narrower hems on the top and the bottom tend to sit flatter and reduce the likelihood of the band “rolling” in on itself. Also, a higher Lycra content will add to the cost but is just as likely to add to the comfort factor.
Belly bands come in different shapes, sizes and colours. Some feel like swimming costume material, quite shiny and stretchy, and others are more matt. The quality of the fibres varies according to cost – the more expensive tend to have a better rebound or recovery when stretched and don’t sag with repeated wear and washing.
Belly bands, like so many other items of clothing, do attract a premium price for the better quality makes. If this is your first pregnancy, you are planning to have a few babies and you feel you are going to wear your belly band a lot, then it may well be worthwhile for you to get a better quality one in the most practical colour, e.g. black or navy, so you can wear it often.
If, by wearing your belly band you are still able to wear your pre-pregnancy clothes and you don’t need to buy maternity clothes, then the outlay for one quality made belly band is going to be worth it.
Although black is still the most popular option, there are a range of colours and prints now available. Having a couple of belly bands provides some choice when it comes to wearing them for work or casual occasions. Just like clothing, belly bands come in different sizes. Depending on the stretch factor in the band, you will have to use your own judgment when it comes to needing the next size up.
Although some women can quite proudly claim they are able to wear their “normal” clothes when pregnant, for the majority this is just not the case. Most find that by around the second trimester, their clothes are getting too tight for comfort – especially in the tummy region.
For women who’ve been pregnant before, it’s common for them to “show” earlier than those who are pregnant for the first time. The reason for this comes down to pure muscle strength and tone. When the abdominal muscles have been previously stretched to accommodate a growing baby, then subsequent pregnancies place earlier stress and tension on the already lengthened muscle fibres.
Some women tend to sail through their pregnancies and feel just fine. Others really do find the whole process uncomfortable and draining and really can’t wait until it’s over. In the second and third trimester the weight of the uterus can cause back ache and strain, fluid retention and swollen ankles, and constant trips to the toilet will mean that you can never venture too far away from a bathroom. So any products which promise to make this a more comfortable time are usually viewed with real interest.
Manufacturers of belly bands claim that they are great as “wardrobe extenders”. Pregnant mothers can wear their pre-pregnant clothes for longer, especially their trousers, jeans and skirts. As their tummy enlarges and it becomes difficult to do up the zip, clips or buttons, these can be left open and the belly band is worn over the top, covering the expanse of skin. They can also work like a “bridge” between where the top ends and where the pants or skirt start. Unless you’re harnessing a Mother Earth vibe and want your belly to be proudly on display, belly bands will offer a little more coverage and discretion when it comes to covering your pregnant belly.
Most women who’ve worn a belly band say they’re not conscious of their zip or buttons being open with the band stretched over the top. The buttons/zips do not “dig into” their skin and there’s no feeling of discomfort from them not being done up. However, some say they don’t like the feeling of not being “done up” and feel a bit exposed.
Some pregnant mothers like to wear their belly band as a boob tube with a skirt or pants. During hot weather the freedom of having as much skin exposed as possible can make a real difference when it comes to comfort.
Maternity clothes are just a fact of life for most of us during our pregnancies. But the stretchy panel in the front of skirts and pants can be just a little unattractive. This is another reason why a belly band can provide a more appealing alternative. It covers up the expanse of stretchy fabric which sits prominently from the waist area to just above the pubic bone.
Because of the stretch factor in belly bands, they move as well; so walking, bending, breathing and getting up and down from a sitting position shouldn’t be restrictive just because you’re wearing one. If you are sensing this, then it’s probably time to loosen the band or buy the next size up.
In the first and second trimester of pregnancy, some women choose to fold their belly band in half because it doesn’t need to cover as much tummy area. But as their pregnancy advances, the band can be worn fully expanded.
Because they are another layer, they can be warm for the cooler months.
Some mothers find they are just a good fashion accessory and provide a different layering look. They can smooth the mid section and provide an alternative to monochromatic colour when dressing.
Belly bands are a great intermediate wardrobe item between not fitting into pre-pregnancy clothes and maternity clothing being too big. When maternity pants would otherwise be swimming on you, a belly band will help to hold them up. Likewise, in the first couple of months after your baby is born, you’re unlikely to fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Belly bands can still be worn after birth.
Some women find wearing an additional layer provides a feeling of support for their tummy. If you are in the later stages of your pregnancy, carrying twins or multiples or retaining excess fluid, then you may find a belly band is a comfortable option.
Belly bands have been around for some years now. Like most other items of fashion, they have gone through lots of evolutionary design changes from their early days on the market. Advances in the manufacture and processing of fibres have also meant that the way they work and their effectiveness is better than they used to be.
At first, you may be more conscious of wearing a belly band until you get used to it. Some women find that it becomes tighter after they’ve eaten and becomes uncomfortable. But when and if this happens, the belly band can be folded down a little so it sits lower on your abdomen. Think of the wide waist band on yoga pants and the option of folding them down for more freedom of movement; they share similar characteristics.
Belly belts, though similar to belly bands work a bit differently. The belts have a different, stretchy fabric panel across the front of the band where the pregnant tummy sits. They are also narrower than the belly band. The fabric at the back and sides of the band is less stretchy than the portion at the front. Others are stretchy all the way around.
Costs vary though generally belly bands are commercially available for around $40.00 upwards. If you buy one from a maternity boutique this is likely to be a more expensive option. Some women choose to make their own belly bands from knitted fabrics. If you get together with a group of pregnant friends you could have a sewing day and save yourselves some money and have fun at the same time.
Some belly bands are more supportive than others, with manufacturer’s claiming that wearing their belly band provides back support and helps to alleviate strain on the lower back. But there is no clear, consistent evidence to support statements that belly bands are effective for pregnancy related lower back pain. Some women do benefit from the additional support but using a belly band does not address the underlying causes of lower back or pelvic girdle pain if they are present.
According to Mary O’Dwyer, Women’s Health Physiotherapist and author of Hold it Mama belly bands can be like putting on a band aid – they don’t fix anything if there’s a structural reason for discomfort. Belly Bands and belts may provide some relief in pregnancy. However, the underlying causes of poorly functioning pelvic floor and core muscles as well as poor control of movement needs to be addressed by a physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health.
In the third trimester of pregnancy when the baby is getting larger, mothers need to alter their centre of gravity in order to maintain their balance. Adopting the classic pregnancy “waddle” is one way of keeping upright and not falling forwards. But it does no favours to the core abdominal muscles and those supporting the back and keeping the spine in its correct alignment. You may find your physiotherapist recommends you wear a belly band but will advise you to source a proper support garment from a specialty supplier rather than a standard, commercially available belly band.