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Understanding Postpartum Compression Vs. Shapewear

Pregnancy puts a lot of stress on your body. It shifts your organs, causes your bones to widen, and slows down the circulation of your blood and bodily fluids. This is all done to accommodate your growing baby and is completely natural and safe. However, after delivery, your pre-pregnancy body isn’t going to immediately bounce back into its former self. Recovery takes time, especially when it comes to your stomach. Many women will continue to look pregnant right after delivery as your uterus is still stretched to accommodate your baby. It’s important to give your body time to recuperate and heal, but there are ways to expedite the process and boost your confidence. Here, we’ll go over what you need to understand about postpartum compression vs. shapewear.

What is Postpartum Compression?

Postpartum compression garments are medical-grade compression garments created to provide an additional layer of support to women recovering from childbirth. While they may look similar to shapewear that can be purchased from a department store, they are not the same. Postpartum compression garments are designed by doctors and healthcare professionals to improve recovery for postpartum moms. They’re breathable and can be discreetly worn under clothing to enhance comfort levels while boosting confidence.

How Can Postpartum Compression Improve Recovery?

During pregnancy, your body increases the production of a hormone called relaxin, which allows your muscles to stretch out and accommodate your growing baby. Immediately following delivery, your body slows the production of relaxin and concentration gradually decreases. As relaxin decreases, your muscles slowly come back together. Postpartum compression garments are medical-grade devices that are created to assist in this recovery and alleviate excessive swelling. They’re proven to speed up postpartum recovery while tightening your muscles, providing extra support, and relieving pain or discomfort.

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Benefits of Postpartum Compression

There are several different benefits of postpartum compression garments, and they usually require a prescription from your doctor. Always discuss the pros and cons of using postpartum compression and follow your doctor’s instructions. Some of the best benefits of postpartum compression include the following:

Alleviates Uterine Swelling

Your uterus expands during pregnancy to accommodate the growing size of your baby. Immediately following delivery, your uterus is still going to be expanded to the size it was when housing your baby. It takes about two to three weeks for your uterus to start shrinking and a full six weeks to return to pre-pregnancy size. It takes your abdomen muscles even longer to heal. By utilizing the right postpartum compression garments, you can expedite the recovery process and give your body additional support along the way. Postpartum compression also helps your body eliminate extra fluid, thus improving swelling faster than you would without the additional support.

Reduces the Risk of Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti is a condition where the muscles in your abdomen separate. It’s common in new mothers, since pregnancy stretches your abdominal muscles and pulls them apart from their resting state. Diastasis recti is often underdiscussed and many women don’t understand why they have it or why it isn’t corrected with exercise. However, certain exercise can actually make this condition worse. Postpartum compression garments help reduce the risk of diastasis recti as they help compress the muscles into their natural placement fast and efficiently.

Strengthens Pelvic Support

Postpartum compression garments are also great for improving pelvic support. After pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles are severely weakened and can lead to problems with incontinence or urinary leakage. By utilizing the right postpartum compression garments, you’ll gain more support for your pelvic floor and core muscles, thus reducing the likelihood of long-term urologic problems like incontinence, prolapse, and hernias.

Improves Abdominal and Back Support

Postpartum compression garments help your muscles shift and move back into place during the gradual decrease of relaxin and ensure that they set in the correct position. While this will happen naturally, postpartum compression garments can speed up the process and reduce the number of abdominal exercises you need to perform to get back to your pre-pregnancy body. These medical-grade garments also provide you with additional abdominal and back support, which improves your posture and reduces your risk of injury. This is especially important if you’ve dealt with back problems in the past.

Faster Recovery from C-Sections

Cesarean deliveries are a major surgery that will require a long recovery process. You will stay in the hospital for the first few days, but healing can last up to six weeks and beyond. Postpartum compression garments can help expedite the recovery process while alleviating pressure and pain at your incision.

All of the benefits of postpartum compression garments are long-term. They continue to last well after you stop wearing them. If you’re thinking about using postpartum compressions to facilitate a stronger recovery, talk to your doctor about your options. Some of the most popular types of postpartum compression include girdles, belly bands, and compression leggings.

What is Shapewear?

Shapewear, on the other hand, is a garment that’s used to help sculpt and smooth the outside of your body. Shapewear is worn under clothes to create a slim appearance with a smooth silhouette. It’s a great way to highlight your natural body but is not meant to be used for long-term effects. While there are some great benefits of using shapewear, they stop once you take off the garment. Some of the most notable benefits of wearing shapewear include sculpting, slimming, and smoothing.

Shapewear helps to sculpt your stomach so that it looks smooth on the outside. This can help boost your confidence when you go out, but won't provide long-term relief for abdominal support and strength. Shapewear also helps to slim your sides to fit better into clothes for special occasions or a night out. However, this can create other problems, especially if you are postpartum. The intensity of the compression from shapewear can increase your risk for incontinence or accidents, as your pelvic floor muscles are still repairing and strengthening. Finally, shapewear allows you to achieve a smoother appearance. Again, this is great for temporary relief, but shapewear will not help you lose weight or repair your muscles.

Different Types of Shapewear Garments

Some of the most popular types of shapewear garments include corsets, waist trainers, and Spanx®. While these products can be worn daily to help you achieve a slimmer image, the benefits are strictly cosmetic and don’t provide any medical assistance. Make sure that you wear the correct size to avoid dangerous situations, as wearing excessively tight garments can cause nausea, headaches, dizziness, and breathing problems.


  • Corsets – corsets have lacing that run down the front or back and can be adjusted to help cinch the waist. They’re often worn on the outside of clothing to portray a certain style. Corsets should not be worn during strenuous activity or in attempt to slim your waist.


  • Waist Trainers– waist trainers have grown in popularity due to celebrity use and endorsement, but they can be dangerous when used improperly. Waist trainers are advertised to help you slowly trim your waist, but there is little to no evidence that they actually work. Discuss any use of a waist trainer with your doctor to avoid injury or long-term damage.


  • Spanx®– Spanx® are the most common type of shapewear used by women. They’re lightweight and can help you control trouble areas and slim your silhouette.


Postpartum Compression Vs. Shapewear: What’s Best for You?

If you’re looking to reap long-term benefits, postpartum compression garments are the best option. Shapewear can still be used after you’ve recovered to help you feel your best in your clothes, but they will not provide any medical benefits during your recovery.

There are several different postpartum compression garments that can provide you with substantial benefits during your recovery period and beyond. Due to these benefits, many of these garments are considered FDA-listed medical devices and may be covered under your insurance provider. Always discuss coverage options with your insurance carrier and talk to your doctor about any prescription requirements. There are also options for maternity compression garments, which can help you achieve additional support with your growing belly. If you’re interested in either maternity compression garments or postpartum compression garments, talk to your doctor today. You may be eligible to receive certain types of support depending on your plan and provider.

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