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Updated August 26, 2019
Pelvic support belts are very effective for the management of low back pain during pregnancy. They are designed to redistribute baby bump weight to reduce low back strain and pelvic pressure.
As an obstetrician, I observed how well pelvic support belts improved low back pain in numerous prenatal patients.
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Why does pregnancy cause low back pain?
Low back pain during pregnancy is very common for two main reasons:
1) Hormones affect the ligaments in your spine.
2) Baby bump weight changes your center of gravity.
During pregnancy, the hormones, progestin, and relaxin relax smooth muscle and soften ligaments. This helps the pelvic outlet accommodate the childbirth process. The joints in the pelvic girdle that are affected are the sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis joint (see diagram below). As these joints loosen the pelvic girdle becomes unstable. As a result of this change, many women will notice a change in their gait which is often referred to as the “waddle of pregnancy”.
Hormones also soften the spinal ligaments which are involved in stabilizing the intervertebral joints in the back. These joints maintain our upright posture and stability. The loosening of the vertebral joints in the lumbar portion of the back makes the lower back susceptible to back strain during pregnancy.
- Baby Bump Weight
Baby bump weight strains your lower back due to a shift in your body’s center-of-gravity. Your back muscles are forced to work harder to maintain your balance and posture.* (Source)
* This cause of low back pain is far greater for women carrying twins and triplets.
Pregnancy weight strains your lower back because the weight exerted on your lower back is many times greater than the weight of your pregnancy. This is because your pregnancy changes your center of gravity.
Surprisingly, more women do not have problems with back pain during pregnancy.
*We are often told to practice good body mechanics. To lift heavy objects with our knees and not our back. Bending our back instead of our knees results in many emergency room visits for herniated discs.
7 Reasons to use a pelvic support belt during pregnancy:
- Maintaining a stable and upright posture strains your back when you are pregnant
- For lower back and pelvic support if you have a back or pelvic injury (trauma).
- Support your pelvic girdle if you have had prior deliveries.
- To use as an abdominal binder if you develop diastasis rectus. Support is especially helpful postpartum.
- To stabilize pelvis if you experience symphysis pubis dysfunction (Symphyseal Separation).
- Back support for women with multiple gestations (twins, triplets)
- Postpartum abdominal support while your core muscles restore their tone.
During your initial prenatal visit, be sure to mention any history of scoliosis, sciatic pain, herniated discs, pelvic trauma, back trauma, chronic back pain or back surgery (fusion, rod placement, spinal stenosis, etc.)
1. Maintaining a stable and upright posture strains your back when you are pregnant.
Maintaining correct posture during pregnancy requires strong core muscles. Using a maternity support belt also known as pelvic support belts distribute your baby bump weight to take the strain off the ligaments in your lower back and pelvic girdle.
The relief women feel when wearing pelvic support belts is amazing. For many, it is truly life-changing.
We are always surprised at how many women tell us they never knew about pelvic support belts. There is nothing worse than finding out about a product that could have been helpful but is no longer needed.
If you do find pelvic support belts are helpful, spread the word. This is a topic that is rarely discussed during pregnancy.
Pelvic support belts should be discussed with every prenatal patient as a part of their routine prenatal care.
Why pregnancy weight causes back pain.
2. Maternity support belts can help support your back and pelvis if you have had back or pelvic (trauma).
If you have had back or pelvic trauma, or have a congenital back condition (scoliosis, etc.) pelvic support belts can be very helpful. If you are using it, for this reason, discuss the use of a support belt with your health care provider.
You do not want to select the wrong type of maternity support belt. You want to avoid pelvic support belts that do not fit properly or specifically address your problem.
3. Pelvic support belts help stabilize your pelvic girdle if you have had prior deliveries.
Many women notice an increase in back and pelvic pain with subsequent pregnancies. This is not surprising since the appearance of the pelvic girdle does change on radiographic studies after childbirth.
The loosening of ligaments and change in joint spaces can account for why there may be more muscle strain and nerve entrapment.
4. Maternity belts can work like an abdominal binder if you develop diastasis recti.
Diastasis recti occur when the abdominal muscles separate in the midline. It can be mild or severe. There are two main contributing factors:
- Tissue integrity or tissue strength which can be affected by smoking, nutrition, or perhaps a genetic predisposition*.
- The amount of abdominal stretching that occurs. Diastasis recti are far more common among women with twins or triplets.
It is hard to predict who will develop diastasis recti.
When you are postpartum, it is important to note that the muscle tone of your abdominal wall can affect bodily functions:
- Posture is dependent on core muscle stability.
- Elimination (bloating, constipation)
- Breathing (abdominal breathing involving the diaphragm)
5. Pelvic support belts for symphysis pubis dysfunction.
For individuals with symphysis pubis dysfunction, a pelvic support belt can do wonders.
This condition is also called symphyseal separation and occurs when there is a separation of the pelvic joint in the pubic region overlying your bladder (see diagram).
Symphysis pubis dysfunction happens when the joint becomes relaxed enough to cause instability in the pelvic girdle. It can be very painful and make taking care of your newborn difficult. You are also more at risk of developing postpartum depression and anxiety. (Source)
How to manage symphysis pubis dysfunction at home postpartum:
Separation of the pubic symphysis can be painful and takes time to heal. A maternity support belt stabilizes the pelvic girdle to help with healing.
You will want to set-up help at home BEFORE you are discharged. You should have help lined up for your postpartum recovery (even with no complications). So hopefully you do! If not you’ll want to line up help.
Friends and family are usually very willing to help. But, not everyone is lucky enough to help family or friends nearby. Hiring a postpartum Doula is an option worth considering.
You will need help and there are very few people who will know about this condition.
Be prepared to insist that you need help and DO NOT feel bad about asking.
You will need help with daily activities. If you have children at home think about who can help you out with the kids.
If your symphyseal separation affects your ability to walk, women often find it helpful to use a walker. Yes, I know… a walker!
No worries, it’s only until you recover. A walker decreases the pressure on your pelvis which can make it much easier and less painful to get around.
A walker can also make you feel much safer if you are unstable. You do not want to fall.
The bottom line is to do whatever you can to immobilize the pelvis. Immobilizing the symphyseal separation will dramatically reduce the pain and reduce inflammation.
6. If you are carrying twins or triplets, support belts can give a great deal of back support.
Carrying twins and triplets can cause a lot of back pain. This is because your baby bump weight is greater and extends further out, drastically altering your center of gravity.
Your body’s core muscles have to work very hard so you can stand upright and ambulate.
It is no surprise that many women with twins and triplets crave bedrest during the third trimester. Even the simplest tasks cause low back pain and are extremely exhausting.
To fully understand why back pain occurs during pregnancy, review the diagrams at the beginning of this article.
7. Maternity belts (belly bands) are great for postpartum abdominal support until tone returns to your core abdominal muscles.
Pelvic support belts are most often used during pregnancy. They can be helpful during your postpartum recovery. It is after delivery when you will know whether you have developed diastasis.
Maternity belts and belly bands have been designed to manage this postpartum.
If you did not develop any problem with the tone of your abdominal wall, a belt still gives many women comfort and support.
For those who have had a cesarean section, wearing a belly band acts like an abdominal binder and helps reduce pain with straining.
A belt also decreases the tension on your abdominal incision.
5 Best Pelvic Support Belts For Pregnancy:
The NEOtech Care Brand Maternity belt is one of the most popular maternity belts sold in the United States and Canada. It has been tested extensively.
The belt is made of breathable material. The effectiveness of this maternity belt is attributed to how it alleviates strain in the lumbar spine by distributing pregnancy weight over a larger surface area.
This maternity belt is produced by Babo Care. It is made of soft material and is more comfortable than many of the other maternity belts on the market.
It is designed for frequent use and may be just what you need if you find other belts more cumbersome.
The Baby Belly Band produced by CABEA is for more active women during and after pregnancy. It was created by a female health care professional to reduce back and hip pain.
This maternity belt offers individual phone consultation with a company representative to make sure your order is sized correctly.
Gabriella has been a longstanding and well-known name in the maternity support belt industry. This elastic maternity belt is intended for active moms who are looking for support when working out during pregnancy.
Pelvic support belts can dramatically help alleviate musculoskeletal aches and pains associated with pregnancy.
Maintaining good posture during pregnancy is critical and this is where pelvic support belts can make a big difference.
Besides, just wearing a maternity belt is a great reminder of how important it is to support your lower back to prevent serious complications.