Belly Bands: Are They Worth It?

Pregnancy is hard on the body. In just a few short months, pregnant women experience weight gain, loose ligaments, and a shifting center of gravity. Our bodies shift around to accommodate, and we often notice changes in how we stand, walk, and move around throughout the day. This can lead to back pain, pelvic pain, and wild changes in balance for pregnant women. It’s no wonder that we start to waddle at the end! 

Fortunately, support is out there. A maternity support garment, also known as a belly band, maternity lumbar support, or pregnancy belt, can alleviate these common complaints. These garments are often recommended by physical therapists, prenatal care providers, and experienced moms alike, and may help with back pain and reduce pelvic pain by taking pressure off your abdominal muscles and reducing motion around the sacroiliac joint. 

Benefits of Maternity Support 

The benefits of maternity support may include: 

  • Reduced lower back pain
  • Reduced pelvic pain
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved balance

There are many brands and styles of belly support bands available. Though different brands have subtle differences, the general concept of maternity lumbar and pelvic support has been demonstrated through research to be helpful in reducing pain and discomfort and improving function for pregnant women. Though these garments can’t completely take away all pregnancy-related discomfort, studies have consistently shown that women move better, feel better, and fall down less often when they’re using a belly band of some kind. Let’s break it down.

Reduce Back Pain

  • Over 65% of pregnant women report low back pain during pregnancy. Pregnancy-related low back pain can be debilitating, leading to difficulty with basic daily functions like walking, sleeping, and working, and often worsens as the pregnancy progresses. Moms often report that they try a variety of treatments for low back pain, including physical therapy, topical creams, heat packs, yoga, acupuncture, massage, rest, chiropractic care. Maternity support garments can be a low-cost, easy-to-use option for relieving the day-to-day strain on your changing body. 
  • Research suggests that maternity belly bands do not completely eliminate low back pain during pregnancy, but most women report reduced intensity and frequency of low back discomfort by using pregnancy belly bands. The extra support seems to allow women to move better, sleep better, and stay more active during pregnancy. 
  • Though researchers are not sure what exactly causes these improvements, they think it might have something to do with either the physical back support that the garment provides, or the fact that it helps women be more aware of their bodies and therefore move more consciously throughout the day. 

Stabilize Your Pelvis 

  • At least 20% of women report pelvic pain during pregnancy. This includes pain at the pubic symphysis in the front of the pelvis, and/or pain at one or both sacroiliac joints on the back side. This pain can be debilitating and limit mom’s ability to sleep or move well during pregnancy. 
  • Many belly wraps sit low, under the belly and around the lower back. These garments also apply pressure to the sacrum and the pelvic bones, which can help stabilize and reduce motion around the sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis and reduce painful movement in these joints.
  • There are some garments that apply more specific pressure to the pelvis without the benefit of abdominal and lumbar support. These belts, called sacroiliac belts, can be an excellent option for some, though many women say they are too stiff to be comfortable for longer periods of time. A softer structure, such as the one provided through Aeroflow Breastpumps listed here, is often preferred simply because it’s more comfortable to use. 

Improve Balance

  • A surprising but important benefit of maternity support garments is that they may help improve balance during pregnancy. It’s reported that 27% of women fall down during pregnancy, probably because of the hormonal and structural changes that can alter a woman’s center of gravity. Obviously, falling down is no good for anyone, but it’s even more important to stay safely on two feet during pregnancy because of the impact a fall can have on your growing baby. 
  • Maternity support may help with balance because of improved posture and alignment, reduced back pain, and improved awareness and activation of core muscles.

Improve Function

  • Caring for an older child? Working on your feet? Nesting like mad? Studies show that maternity support garments may be effective in reducing the impact of pain in daily activities like sleeping, getting up from a sitting position, walking, and working. 
  • Maternity support belts are not specifically recommended for use during sleeping, though quality of life questionnaires indicate that women who use support belts consistently notice an improvement in their pain during the night even when not wearing support.
  • The mechanism of action that leads to reduced pain with activity is likely similar to that of reducing low back pain, in that there are several hypotheses that likely work together to improve women’s quality of life and function during pregnancy. The theme with activity-based benefit is that the more consistently a woman uses the garments over time, the more benefit she experiences. 

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Types of Maternity Support 

  • The most common style of maternity lumbar support is a breathable structured pregnancy support band or belt that wraps around the lower belly, lower back, and upper parts of the pelvis. These typically use velcro to be adjustable to accommodate for a growing baby bump, and are often recommended by professionals and experienced moms alike. For more on maternity lumbar support, click here
  • Another style of support garment, as mentioned above, is a sacroiliac belt. This can be an excellent tool for pain that is specifically used to reduce pelvic girdle pain, and many pregnant women find relief with this type of support. However, it is not as versatile as the maternity lumbar support mentioned above, and many women report that the rigidity is uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. 
  • Some women say that a supportive flexible fabric, such as high-waisted spandex maternity leggings, can be helpful for many of the same reasons as listed above. This type of support is less structured and therefore potentially less effective for women with low back or pelvic pain, though they may offer some benefits for balance because they may contribute to improved awareness of core muscles. 

Maternity lumbar support is generally most impactful for belly support, starting mid-pregnancy and increasing in importance toward the end of the third trimester. These garments can be worn as much or as little as you feel is helpful. It may be most beneficial to prioritize using your support garment during activities, such as walking, exercising, household chores, and other activities that involve full-body movement. With maternity lumbar support, you’ll want it to fit so that it provides gentle compression around the pelvic bones and lower back, with a light lift sensation applied to the lower belly for support. Though you may feel immediate relief, you may find that using your garment consistently for 2-3 weeks further improves the benefit to reducing your low back and pelvic pain.

About the Author

Dr. Samantha Spencer, PT, DPT, is a Medical Advisor with Aeroflow Breastpumps. Dr. Spencer is a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic and perinatal care in the Asheville, NC, area where she offers in-home physical therapy to prenatal & postpartum individuals. She also developed the Strong Beyond Birth 28-Day Course to guide and support moms as they return to exercise, and offers virtual consultations to women everywhere.

Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.