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Belly Binding for Optimal Fetal Positioning

by Khadijah Cisse

What do you notice about these bellies?

40+ week pregnant bellies

Vertical separation of the abdominal muscles is called rectus diastasis. It is common in pregnant women, particularly in the third trimester. Some women will have more integrity of their muscles than others. But separation of these muscles can lead to a pendulous uterus as the weight of the baby increases. The ideal angle for the axis of a full term fetus falls somewhere between 55-60 degrees, as shown in the photo below. In the photos above, the green line represents the approximation axis that is ideal for baby, and the red line indicates the approximate actual position of the baby. If your belly looks like the bellies above, then you may wish to consider wearing a prenatal abdominal support garment starting at the beginning and for the full duration or the last trimester of pregnancy.

The belly beneath represents the ideal belly with optimal abdominal tone. When abdominal tone lacks, the bottom of the baby (the bum) will lean too far forward into the belly, and this can hinder labor in many cases. Poor abdominal support is a leading cause of asynclitic (tilted) heads, and also issues like prodromal labor, as the body is continuously feeling a need to exercise the uterine muscles since they are not receiving optimal support from the abdominal muscles. Other common issues can be brow presentation, babies flipping to breech or transverse, and overwhelmingly long labors, sometimes lasting in excess of three days and sometimes with a dysfunctional pattern of labor.

40 week belly

Sadly, there are not a lot of support garment options that properly support the abdomnal muscles, as most come only bellow the belly and do not adequately support the upper and mid region of the abdomen and uterus.

But here are a couple to check out:

And you just only need light support, then you can instead wrap occassionally with a wrap sling, as my friend Kristi demonstrates here:

Should You Worry About Your Baby's Position?

Worry? No. But do your part to support good abdominal tone and optimize baby's potential for good positioning, ideally, yes. Ultimately we all have only so much part in the position the baby will assume, but there is much evidence to support the fact that the better the baby's head is flexed (chin tucked against their chest), and the better support the trunk and the appendages of the baby have, the more easily baby can assume good head position for labor and birth.

Likewise, there is a lot of talk about the OP or occiput posterior baby, and it is important to know that OP babies get born, too. In fact, for some women, the shape of their pelvis makes OP a better fit for baby to come through. All the talk of OP babies causing back labor and hip pain and such is legitimate, but babies that begin labor LOT (left occiput transverse, thought to be the most ideal positioning for start of labor) also can still result in babies with asynclitic (tipped) heads and cause similar pattern of labor.

Either way, it is important to know that babies rotate and manage to be born regardless. So give support to your body if it needs, consider doing steep inversions once you baby is engaged for approximately 30 seconds at least once per day while supporting the belly, see a chiropractor regularly if it is within your means, and then relax and worry not about how your little bub decides to come through the pelvis.

Just to be clear, MANY women will have a normal birth, even if they do not support the abdominal muscles, but if you are planning a VBAC or striving for your first vaginal birth, why take the chance?

Should Everyone Bind the Belly?

Only some women really benefit heavily. If your belly looks like the top pictures in this article, and ESPECIALLY if you are a VBAC momma or a first time mother, then consider really paying attention to abdominal support. Before pregnancy and between pregnancies, it is really good to get those core muscles in shape, too.

Before, during, and after pregnancy, a great resource to help restore the muscle integrity is The Tummy Team.

What About After Baby Arrives?

Postpartum binding is really popular in many cultures around the world and can help minimize bleeding, reduce afterpains, and hasten the time it takes to restore your body to close to the pre-pregnancy size.

And, for postpartum support, check out the Belly Bandit, available from multiple online sources.