Do Abdominal Binders Help With C-Section Recovery?

abdominal binder

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If you are expecting to deliver your baby via C-section, or if you recently had a C-section, you are likely thinking about your recovery. C-section recovery can be challenging, and parents often wonder if there are options for making the recovery period smoother. Enter abdominal binders.

Abdominal binders are elastic bands that are wrapped around a person’s abdominal area. There is limited research on their effectiveness post C-section, but there are indications that they can help reduce pain, increase mobility, and decrease distress. In fact, most C-section parents will be offered an abdominal binder in the hospital after surgery.

Here’s what to know about using abdominal binders for C-section recovery, including the pros and cons, what to look for, along with advice from experts in the field.

What Is It Like to Recover from a C-Section?

In order to understand the role that abdominal binders play in C-section recovery, it’s important to understand what recovering from a C-section entails. As Susan Lipinski, M.D., OB/GYN at Obstetrix of Colorado, part of Pediatrix Medical Group explains, while C-sections are common, they are in fact major abdominal surgery, and can have an intense recovery period.

“The recovery from a C-section is much slower than the recovery after a vaginal delivery,” Dr. Lipinski says. “For an uncomplicated Cesarean section, most patients will need pain medication for 10-14 days and take four to six weeks to feel ‘normal’ again.” You may find that you move a little slower while you recover and you will need to reduce how much lifting you do as you are healing, according to Dr. Lipinski. Driving is also not advised for about two weeks post surgery, she adds.

While you may start to feel more like yourself in about six weeks, scar healing will take longer. “As the scar heals, there may be times that it is painful, causes itching, or feels somewhat numb,” Dr. Lipinski describes. “All of this can be normal healing.”

Thankfully, complications after a C-section are not common, says Dr. Lipinski. They can range from mild to severe, and may include wound infections and uterine infections, she explains. Signs of infections may include drainage from your incision, fever, leg pains, labored breathing, chills, increased pain, and increased bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor or midwife promptly.

What Is an Abdominal Binder?

Essentially, abdominal binders are pieces of elastic that are wrapped around your abdominal area and secured with Velcro. They are often used to provide support after abdominal surgery, such as a C-section. “Many postpartum units will provide them to patients,” says Dr Lipinksi. “I recommend them for all C-section moms and all moms of multiples regardless of route of delivery.”

Christine Kingsley, advanced practice registered nurse (APRM) at the Lung Institute, has observed this practice as well and says offering abdominal binders to C-section patients is fairly standard. “They're typically charged to the patient in their labor and delivery bill, but can be purchased independently in hospitals or pharmacies,” she says.

Abdominal binders can help support lengthened abdominal muscles and may help minimize swelling, says Ashley Rawlins, PT, DPT a physical therapist at Origin. Binders can help cue posture, and increase proprioceptive input (sensory input) for your abdominal muscles, she adds.

There are many different types of abdominal binders on the market, Dr. Rawlins says. “Some are made of an elastic/stretchy material, and some are non-elastic,” she describes. You can do a quick Google search to find out where to buy abdominal binders online.

If you are looking for other options, Dr. Rawlins says that a snug pair of high-waisted yoga pants can serve a similar purpose. “These can be really helpful in giving you the input you need to help support and use your abdominal muscles when you move and care for your new baby,” she says.

Pros and Cons of Abdominal Binders

Although abdominal binder usage is fairly standard as part of C-section recovery, the research is mixed in terms of their effectiveness. Some studies have found that while they reduce emotional distress, they don’t help much with pain relief. Other studies have found that they do seem to reduce pain, and that they can help increase mobility after a C-Section. However, it’s clear from all studies that they don’t help with postpartum bleeding.

Dr. Lipinsky says that her patients find abdominal binders quite helpful as they recover from C-sections. “After a pregnancy, the abdominal wall is weak and the binder provides support,” she says. “It also minimizes movement in the abdominal wall when walking/moving.” Still, she says, using an abdominal binder is purely a personal preference, and is not for everyone.

The biggest drawbacks of abdominal binders, according to Dr. Lipinksy? She says that during the summer months, they can be quite itchy. Finding a good fit can be challenging as well. “The goal is to find one that is comfortably snug and feels supportive,” she says. The binder should not be so tight that you can’t breathe, but it should be tight enough that you feel supported, she says. If you have a larger waist, Dr. Lipinsky recommends connecting two binders together.

Dr. Rawlins emphasizes making sure that your binder fits properly. “Abdominal support that is too tight and improperly worn can or apply too much pressure to your incision, which could compromise healing,” she says “A binder that is worn too tight may even increase pressure that is being placed on your pelvic organs and pelvic floor, which can contribute to developing or worsening symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction.” It can be helpful to get help from a physical therapist if you are unsure about your binder’s fit, advises Dr. Rawlins.

There are certain circumstances where abdominal binders should not be worn, according to Kingsley. “Abdominal binders must absolutely not be worn when experiencing complications, such as infection in your uterus or at the incision site, excessive bleeding, or if you have preeclampsia,” she explains. Of course, if you have any of these symptoms, you should also be in close touch with your healthcare team.

A Word From Verywell

Abdominal binders can be a useful tool as you face a C-section recovery. Most people will be offered one at the hospital. However, abdominal binders are not for everyone: it’s a matter of personal preference and if they are the right choice for you medically. If you have any further questions about using your abdominal binder, or C-section recovery in general, please reach out to your doctor, midwife, or healthcare provider.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Cesarean Birth.

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Cesarean Birth.

  4. Saeed S, Rage KA, Memon AS, et al. Use of Abdominal Binders after a Major Abdominal Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Cureus. 2019;11(10):e5832. doi:10.7759/cureus.5832

  5. Di Mascio D, Caruso G, Prata G, et al. The efficacy of abdominal binders in reducing postoperative pain and distress after cesarean delivery: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Gynecology and Reproductive Biology. 2021;262:73-79. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2021.05.014

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By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.