• The Fit Midwife

A Waist of Money

Updated: May 24, 2020

Don't they look so happy and comfortable......

Sorry about the terrible pun in the title.

It seems half of Instagram has a waist trainer on these days, as they go about filming their half arsed gym workouts for their 12 week body blitz or their ‘post baby body bounce back’’. I hate everything about those 5 words (but love the alliteration).

These ‘’influencers’’, the majority of whom have as much physiological or pregnancy knowledge as a cabbage, use their platform rip off women who find themselves not recognising their own body or fully appreciating what it has actually just done! To encourage them back to a time where a tiny waist, whilst sometimes dangerous, was the ideal. We women have come a very long way since then (the right to vote, to not have to crush our bodies in to corsets or conform to societies dysfunctional norms etc etc).

Now some people argue with me that I haven’t had a baby, so I cannot know what it is like to have a postnatal body. Nope, I haven’t had a baby. But I have had many years studying and working as a healthcare professional and more recently as a fitness professional. And I know the science. Science doesn’t lie. Which is the reason influencers have to plug these products and they are not prescribed by a doctor or midwife!

Having a baby does not make these influencers qualified to give this advice. It’s like me being on a plane does not make me qualified to fly one…. And I’m pretty sure you’d be worried if I tried it. So why take health and fitness advice from someone who does not understand what they are promoting?

Quite a few celebrity/influencer mamas, such as every Kardashian, Ciara, Kerry Katona & Skye Wheatly are all over social media raving about just how awesome their waist trainer is and how it is helping them bounce back into shape. If you think they do this for free…. Think again. They are sponsored to do it. They get them for free if they advertise them. However if you buy one, you pay around $60/240dhs or more and a pic of you in your maternity pants, with a pad hanging out whilst your boobs leak (which is more realistic) isn’t something you share on social media!

Now I am all about the science. The facts. When I researched the companies that are all over social media, not one of them provided any actual evidence on their website about waist trainers contributing to weight loss or correction of diastasis recti post delivery. Why is that? Because there is NO EVIDENCE at all. Just to be clear I am not talking about support bands given to women for their bumps, these have some evidence behind them. I am talking specifically about postnatal waist trainers which are marketed as a product that will somehow shrink your uterus and return your pre pregnancy physique.

I trawled across a few common websites that sell these trainers and picked up on a few of their selling points:

  • Helps with uterus recovery:

How? Is anyone in any company able to tell us why? Nope! No one can seem to demonstrate how the uterus ‘’recovers’’ when it is being compressed and shoved down in to the pelvis. It is a muscular organ that shrinks back by itself! It heals with good diet and moving well, which in turn increases blood supply to any healing tissue.

  • Helps with pelvic floor recovery:

Again…. Any mention of how? Physiologically speaking if you are compressing all your organs in a corset that also puts pressure on your bladder, with an already weakened pelvic floor surely the only exercise here is you trying not to pee your pants. A waist trainer that is too tight can actually cause pressure to be increased on the pelvic floor. Therefore weakening it further!

  • Provides back support:

OK…. This one, MAYBE. If you wear a postpartum girdle (not waist trainer/corset) for support and it helps then...Keep it up. If anything it is like putting on a tubi grip over a swollen ankle. Feels like it is doing something but its not necessarily fix the problem. Just the way you view it. A postpartum girdle as a back support may be ideal for short term use and only when mobilising and doing things where back pain is increased. I am all for finding what works for you, especially in the early days!

Physiotherapists actually consider prolonged waist trainer use to be counter productive when it comes to back pain because but it will also make your muscles very lazy. You're artificially binding your stomach rather than working to create a strong core through proper strength exercises with a qualified fitness professional. Your core is your natural corset…. Strengthen that!

  • Assists in recovery from abdominal muscle separation (aka Diastasis Rects):

Yeah… No. Sorry. Whilst your abdominal muscles may be closer to each other than they were before they will not suddenly just merge back together. Whilst a waist trainer can hold everything in’ that is actually all they can do. They will not strengthen or tone the muscles in anyway. To reduce a diastasis gap you need to learn to engage and work your entire core: transverse, pelvic floor and oblique abdominal muscles in an optimal, functional way.

  • Corrects posture:

I would imagine this is one of two things:

  1. You become more body aware wearing the corset and as a result you are correcting your posture after a while when it slips in to bad positions (which isn’t a negative thing at all initially – but this should become a habit out of the trainer).

  2. You have an overly tight bit of material around your midsection and your organs are squished and you cannot breathe let alone move, making it almost impossible to slouch anyway.

  • Safe to use after pregnancy:

Would I use one? No. Are they unsafe? Well truthfully, we don’t know. The problem with the absence of any evidence on the benefits is that there is none on the risks either. Let’s think about the physiology of childbirth a bit. Get science involved. Many things happen post birth that are NORMAL! For example, water retention is worse during that first week after delivery than during the pregnancy.

It takes about two weeks for the immediate fluid retention to reduce, and about another two weeks for the remainder to fade. Meanwhile, you are still waiting for your uterus to shrink from the size of a watermelon to the size of pear, which can take up to six weeks.

So when you stand up and look at your belly, which often looks like jelly, you still look pregnant, you are still swollen and puffy; instead of hating what you see and trying to wrap sweaty material around it with no medical evidence of any real benefits, just relax. Appreciate what your body has done and remember this fluid loss and belly-shrinkage naturally occurs whether you're wearing a waist trainer or not. But wearing one certainly does not expedite the process.

I also would not recommend anyone have them near a recent C/S scar. What do wound infections like? Sweaty, hot environments. And not to mention you will be bruised and sore for a few weeks. Don’t add anything that can increase that discomfort.

  • FDA approved:

This was being thrown around a lot. I googled and googled. I couldn’t find any government approval. On the government website or on any vendor websites either. They cannot endorse something with no actual evidence!

  • Midsection control – slimming the post baby stomach:

If you have just had a baby you are supposed to and will probably look like you have had one! I do not like the terms ‘’Bounce Back’’ or ‘’Rebound’’. It almost suggests that it is easy to do and that it is something that must be done. Like getting back to your pre baby body is mandatory. When in actual fact most new mums who take a sensible and long term approach post birth and find more maintainable ways of improving their health and fitness and by association, manage their weight better than before!

It also has a lot to do with the type of pregnancy, birth and recovery you had. It is different from woman to woman. It depends on complications and pre pregnancy fitness status. If you are a celebrity then you also have a PT and a meal plan or chef. I mean I would look like Jessica Alba too if I had the cash (Albeit a broader, taller, very northern English, ginger version).

I came across this definition in an article and I really liked it so, think of it this way: "Pretend your middle is a soft but full balloon and you tie a string around it. What happens? The air gets displaced and moves to the outer edges of the balloon.

That's what happens when you use a waist trainer. You displace water, even organs and soft tissue. You do not change fat composition or deposit." This is exactly right. Have you ever put on a pair of Spanx? And after fighting to pull the ridiculously tight, ugly things on you actually just look like you are wearing a huge body condom that has moved your fat elsewhere…… Or is that just me?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to spend your money and time wisely and find appropriate advice from a qualified physio or PT to ensure than from birth you are doing rehab on your pelvic floor and core with appropriate exercises before you resort to the waist trainer.

Sorry.... rant done. But really, I am sick of seeing people on social media who get paid to promote crap products use the insecurities of women who have undergone a major life change. Mentally and physically. Your body carried and birthed another human! That is incredible. So give it respect and give it a break.

If people selling you products cannot provide solid evidence as to why they are good from you apart from photoshopped pictures then please, save your money. Find physiotherapists and personal trainers who will work postnatally to strengthen and build your core. From that point on you will be unstoppable. And instead of being skinny you will be strong!

That being said, I am all for choice. And if you feel better from wearing a waist trainer then great. If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad. Go for it. But please do not buy in to the unsupported claims they throw around whilst trying to sell them to you. Do not expect miracles. And do not continue to wear one if you experience any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. Returning to what your normal is after having a baby, if it even exists at that point is a process. It isn’t meant to be a short one!

My opinion, leave the waist trainers back in the Victorian Era, with a short life expectancy, deformed ribs and no women’s rights!

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