There has been a lot of talk about postpartum belly binding, or wrapping, lately, and I have certainly been a part of that! See my post here on Bengkung, or Indonesian-style post-partum wrapping for supporting the body after the baby is born. But what about before your baby exits the womb? Can wrapping also benefit pregnant mothers? I think that it can, and here's why.
Please keep in mind that I am not an expert, just someone who loves to learn about pregnancy and birth, and especially how different cultures developed healthy birth practices. Don't do anything that you aren't comfortable with or that makes you uneasy!
While post-partum wrapping is MORE commonly known than prenatal wrapping, there are certainly cultures that used both to great effect. Japanese mothers traditionally wrapped their pregnant bellies using a sarashi, starting at about 7 months and continuing up to the birth. It was believed that this promoted a quicker, easier birth. The wrap may also help to relieve some of the stress and weight of the pregnant uterus on the ligaments of the pelvis, which may be more comfortable for some women, especially those that have a shorter torso, or weakened abdominal muscles due to multiple pregnancies or previous cesarean birth(s).
The wrap also encourages good posture, which can assist in keeping the body and uterus balanced, which may promote optimal fetal positioning for your baby, generally helping labor to be faster and easier than a baby that is in a less optimal position. You can see an illustration of possible fetal positions below.
Although I don't have any studies to share with you or hard data, it certainly seems logical that supporting the ligaments of the uterus and pelvis, as well as the abdominals, may help to keep the body balanced and the baby in a more comfortable position for both mother and baby. (This is one reason why chiropractic care in pregnancy is also a wonderful idea).
Who Might Benefit from Prenatal Binding?
Although it's possible that ALL women might benefit to a degree, there are some in particular that might like to try wrapping prenatally.
Women who have had a previous cesarean
Women who have had a previous hip injury
Women who have been or who are pregnant with multiples
Women who are suffering with pubic symphisis dysfunction or other pelvic issues during pregnancy
Women who have had a version for a breech baby and hope to keep the baby head-down
Women with several closely-spaced pregnancies (perhaps the abdominals could use more support)
How Can You Do It?
There are a few ways. Woven wraps or ring slings can be used in a similar way to a longer wrap. Ring slings may be easier for some women because the rings make adjusting the fabric easier, but they may not provide enough support for some women. Tracy Nagy, a doula in Canada, teaches women how to use a long woven wrap to support their pregnant belly.
You may also use a sarashi, which is a Japanese-style wrap. The sarashi can be woven, or a heavier stretchy fabric. The picture at the beginning of this post is a Bengkung style wrap, wrapped in the traditional Japanese style of overlapping layers in a 'V' to support the belly. You can watch a video on how to do this Here.
It's very important to be in tune with your body when wrapping your belly prenatally! The wrap should be supportive enough to take some weight off of your pelvis, hips, and back, but not so tight that it affects your breathing, becomes painful, or restricts your baby's growth. As always, listen to your body and baby. Intuition is key in this area of pregnancy just as it is the rest of the time!
I am excited to try belly wrapping myself and to get feedback from other pregnant and post-partum mothers who have tried it. Please feel free to email me if you would like to try belly wrapping or you have experiences to share!
I look at birth from the perspective that our bodies are wonderfully made, and if we really believe that and work with the birth process and nourish our bodies properly, they will function optimally, most of the time!