Are you pregnant and finding that your pants don't button anymore, or even zip?! Instead of spending a fortune on maternity clothes, fit into your favorite jeans even longer with a pregnancy belly band and/or a maternity belt. A belt or band can completely transform your pregnancy and maternity look easily by allowing you to wear your pants unbuttoned and/or unzipped without them falling down.
As your belly grows, so does your discomfort. In addition to extending the life of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, you can get the added bonus of extra support for your growing belly, helping relieve that ever-present pain that most mothers have experienced. While bands and belts are similar products, they have some major differences. Let's break down these differences so we can find the perfect product for you and your needs:
Band Vs. Belt
A maternity band, aka pregnancy belly band, is mainly designed for proper coverage and to extend the life of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Somewhere during your second or third trimester (it varies!), you will reach a point where your favorite jeans won't button anymore, soon followed by the inability to zip. Here comes a maternity band to the rescue! It allows you to wear your pants unbuttoned and/or unzipped by providing a thin and sturdy layer of coverage that covers the closure area of the pants. Maternity bands do add some light support, but if you are experiencing back pain or sciatic issues, a maternity belt is a better option for you.
A maternity belt can double as a belly band, but it also lifts and supports your tummy, taking pressure off of your back. They aren't as lightweight or streamlined, but they can offer some much needed relief if you are experiencing any of the following issues:
- sciatic pain, pelvic pain, and/or round ligament pain,
- pain related to being on your feet a lot,
- gained more weight than expected,
- pain during working out / exercise,
- expecting twins,
- and more!
A maternity support belt can double as a band if worn underneath your clothes, or they can be worn on top of your clothes. They can also be worn after birth for extra support while your muscles, ligaments, and joints heal.
If you are just looking for something to extend the life of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe, we would recommend a band. However, the added support of a belt can be a lifesaver, especially during your third trimester. Something to keep in mind though: a pregnancy belt or band shouldn't be worn for more than 2-3 hours at a time. This gives your body time to strengthen itself, while also providing relief in physically demanding situations.
Pro Tip: Take care of the skin on your growing belly by applying a belly lotion to help prevent stretch marks. Our top pick is this one by Burt's Bees.
Ways a Belt Can Help You
Using a band or belt has many different benefits:
- Decrease Pain. A study published in Spine Journal reported that 71% of women reported lower back pain and 65% reported pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy. Pregnancy is definitely not for the weak of heart! The belly belt can help relieve some of the stress that the body is exposed to during pregnancy such as sacroiliac (SI) joint pain, round ligament pain, and sciatic pain.
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain occurs because of the release of relaxin, an appropriately named hormone that causes hip joints to become loose and less stable in preparation for birth. A belt can help stabilize the your hips and support the region.
- Round ligament pain is caused by extra pressure and weight on the ligaments that support the growing uterus. While this pain is temporary, it can be unbearable and a belt can help relieve the pressure on the ligaments.
- Sciatica due to a herniated disk during pregnancy is uncommon, but sciatica-like symptoms are common and are normally associated with lower back pain.
- Provide external cues for posture. "Sway back" is an appearance during pregnancy that is due to the extra weight being carried in the front abdomen combined with stretching and weakening of the key core muscles that support the spine. A belt can help facilitate proper posture by supporting the lower back and torso. This encourages correct posture and helps prevent overextension of the lower back.
- Can be worn post partum for added support. Following birth, it is common for moms to experience decreased core strength, especially if a Cesarean section is performed. A belt can provide additional support for the post natal belly and lower back, decreasing discomfort while the muscles and ligaments that were strained and stretched during pregnancy try to heal. It can act as an abdominal binder and waist shaper on the postpartum belly. Remember: a core support garment is a temporary postpartum fix and it does not heal the underlying condition. Overuse of the product can "turn off" the muscles underneath, causing increased weakness in the long term. If you are struggling with core muscle strength, we recommend talking to your doctor about other options such as physical therapy.
- Provide gentle compression during activities. Imagine going for a run without a sports bra on. Sounds miserable, right? Well, the same principle applies. A gentle compression can cradle your belly during physical activity, therefore reducing discomfort with movements such as jogging and jumping.
- Engage in daily activities (such as exercise) more comfortably. Exercise during and after pregnancy has many positive health benefits and this perk has been reported in a variety of journals and studies. Unfortunately, many pregnant women are unable to exercise due to pain and discomfort, but a belt can help relieve discomfort and allow more regular participation in physical activity.
Do they help with pain?
Yes. During pregnancy, your body starts to product hormones that are meant to relax and prepare your body for birth. Unfortunately, relaxing certain muscles and ligaments that are supposed to be supporting your growing belly results in pain and/or discomfort. Making matters worse, your center of gravity and posture will change as well. A band can provide some relief, but a belt is really designed to help take some of the pressure off of you. This can help relieve pain such as lower back pain, round ligament pain, sacroiliac joint pain, and sciatica.
Are they uncomfortable?
No. Or at least they aren't supposed to be. If you find your belt and/or band uncomfortable, you might need to try and different size or style. But these devices have been around for a while, and the advances over time have made them more comfortable. Some moms report being oddly conscious of the odd feeling of not doing up your pants, but this feeling should quickly pass. These garments may take some getting used to, but usually the support and relief it provides greatly outweighs the initial discomfort.
Will it hurt my baby?
No. As long as your wearing it properly, it shouldn't hurt your little passenger.
Do bands prevent stretch marks?
No. Unfortunately there isn't really anything that can prevent stretch marks. We recommend applying a belly cream, but there's nothing a belt or band can do to help your stretching skin.
Can I wear it to bed?
Experts recommend not wearing your band more than 2-3 hours at time in order to prevent further issues with core strength and support. Instead, try a pregnancy pillow, body pillow, or pregnancy wedge pillow for nighttime relief.
- Only wear the garment for 2-3 hours at a time (or less) to prevent over-dependency. As mentioned earlier, the added support can cause the muscles to "turn off" and this can result in prolonged muscle weakness. It's important to use a belt as an aid, and to simultaneously strengthen your core so that you may once again become independent from this type of device.
- Consult with your doctor before using any type of prenatal belly support garments or devices. While there are many benefits, it's important for you and your doctor to decide if it's right for you to use a belt or a band. For example, too much compression can impair circulation, and it can cause negative effects on blood pressure. It can also contribute to heartburn and indigestion.
- Belly bands and belts are a temporary fix and should not be used as a permanent fix. Is is important to address the underlying dysfuction. If you are struggling, consult with your doctor about the possibility of physical therapy to help with pain and discomfort during and after pregnancy.
What to Look for in a Good Product
- Easy to Clean. You'll love your belt and/or band so much, you'll end up wearing it every day for weeks on end. This means cleaning should be a breeze. The last thing you need is to handwash something every few days; look for a garment that is machine-washable.
- Expense. Buying a belt or band shouldn't cost an arm and a leg. They are usually very affordable.
- Comfort. Your band/belly belt should be able to keep your pants up, but not be too tight. It should make you feel good and keep your pain level manageable. The wrap fabric should be seamless, breathable, stretchy elastic, supportive, and contribute significant abdominal support.
- Versatility. Some bands come in different colors. If you're going to wear your belt on top of your clothes and are still going to stay somewhat stylish, pick a color that matches most of your wardrobe. Also look for bands that are adjustable.
- Closure Type. Some use velcro closures, which are easy to operate but can get snagged on certain clothing materials. Some are hook and eye closures, but these can be a joke when your pregnancy fingers look like sausages.
Mom's Top Picks
We've tried to help you out by assembling a list of the top products for both belts and bands. See the following articles for reviews and guides: Top Maternity Belt to Support Your Growing Belly and Passenger and Best Pregnancy Belly Band to Keep You in Your Favorite Pants Longer.
Pro Tip: If you buy two, you'll always have one on hand, even when you're washing one of them.
Finding the Right Size
Some garments are one size fits all, but some may have a recommended size based on weight or hip size. If your belt and/or band fits properly, you should not even be able to notice that you are wearing one besides the feeling of the compression. It shouldn't scratch, slide off or squeeze uncomfortably; the key is that it should be snug but never painfully tight.
A maternity band is designed to allow you to wear your pants unbuttoned and/or unzipped, therefore extending the life of your pre-pregnancy wardrobe. While a band can provide some minimal support, that isn't its main function. On the other hand, a maternity belt can also function as a band, but is also designed to support the weight of your growing belly and passenger. But both garments have a solid list of other benefits such as, but not limited to:
- back support,
- aid in relieving discomfort,
- hold your pants up,
- save money by not having to buy as much maternity clothing,
- can be used after birth for added support.
Carrying a tiny human inside of your heavy belly can leave you struggling to do daily tasks without the help of a little extra support. Choosing a band or belt that's right for you can help you find comfort in a variety of situations you may encounter; this will help your body face the demanding changes its required to handle. Know an expectant mother? These makes great gifts and the recipient will be grateful for the maternity belly support!