Having spent many months looking forward to the arrival of my second son, I’d carefully handwritten my birth plan detailing my wishes for a natural water birth at the hospital, going over these plans with my partner and explaining the importance that should I need him to, he would be an advocate for my wishes and help ensure things go according to my plan. Of course, this is real life and when do things ever go exactly to plan?!
At 10 days overdue I found myself in the hospital birthing pool with things rapidly going off course, resulting in me having to leave my perfect birth scenario and be wheeled off to theatre where after attempts for a ventouse delivery failed, the surgeon called for an emergency c-section.
The whole experience proved extremely traumatic for me, and whilst it resulted in my beautiful son being born, weighing a cracking 11lb 5.5oz, I was totally unprepared for the painful weeks of recovery following his birth.
Frustrated, fed up and hurting, I undertook a google quest to try to find something that would speed up my healing and help with the pain and the burning sensation I was experiencing which was across all of my skin on my belly and driving me crazy. I followed some of the suggestions and undertook reiki and acupuncture sessions with no real noticeable results. I then read numerous articles and looked at various forums and talk of big pants and compression kept arising. Reading it, I couldn’t think of anything worse. I was wearing the loosest clothes I could find, trying to keep them from touching my skin and constantly trying to tuck my underwear down so it didn’t touch my new scar, the thought of having something tight on it sounded positively horrific. I was desperate however, so out came the bank card and into the world of big pants I crossed.
Having looked at the high numbers of c-section pants, corsets and belly binders available with their massively ranging price tags it was hard to know which was best to buy. I wasn’t adverse to paying a fair amount if it would take away some of my pain or speed up healing, but at the same time I didn’t want to waste a large chunk of money. I ended up going for one of the lower priced options available, a set of two c-section pants made by a company called Cantaloop and purchased from John Lewis. In all honesty, it was laziness mostly that made me choose these, they looked ok and the drawing factor was that John Lewis will deliver for free to my local Waitrose which is just a couple of minutes from my home. As I’m not allowed to drive following the op and am reliant on lifts, which are not fun when going over bumps in the road, the short journey to collect was appealing.
Priced at £26.00 for two pairs, the Cantaloop pants come in an unusual round packaging similar to that you’d get hot chocolate in. The write up on them promised comfort and light compression to help with swelling. Far from being attractive, I reluctantly and carefully pulled the pants over my scar and waited for the pain. Instead I instantly felt supported and almost immediately the burning tingling sensation I’d been having on my skin stopped. Needless to say I was sold. They pulled my still swollen and bruised belly upwards slightly so it sat on my scar less and the tightness gave me a great feeling of support without being uncomfortable. The pants feel a good quality and the smooth fabric didn’t irritate my scar. They are far from the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen but I was so happy I wore them day and night. Unfortunately only two weeks after buying them the elastic around the legs of one of the pairs snapped making them somewhat less comfy and I was disappointed that for the price I’d paid they did not last longer. I can still wear them, but having planned to buy more pairs, this changed my mind and I went in search of another product to help me.
This time I decided to go for a belly binder. Attracted more by price than anything, I found a Carriwell Belly Binder on Ebay reduced from £32.99 to £15.00 and decided to give it a go. From my online research, Carriwell seemed to be one of the cheaper but popular brands. The belly binder is made from organic cotton and promises help with encouraging the stomach to return to its original shape, improve posture, support lower back and tighten and shape your midriff “making you slimmer, more attractive & confident”. Now had I read this statement prior to purchasing I have to say I would definitely have moved on without parting with cash as I do find the idea that being slimmer = more attractive both incorrect and offensive, and especially unnecessary to aim at new mums. Mums have enough pressure to get back in shape as it is, without being told attractiveness is linked to waist line, so shame on you Carriwell for trying to promote your products in such a way. Moving on from the offensive statement, the belly binder is a simple wrap that goes around your belly, being secured by a Velcro strip so its easily adjustable. Automatically when putting it on I felt myself stand straighter, realising how bad my posture had got lately. The belly binder did not offer me any levels of comfort, but at the same time was not especially uncomfortable and was bearable to wear for a day out. As it does not sit smoothly on the skin and is made of thick fabric, wearing tight clothes is ruled out as it makes them look bumpy and also made me look quite a bit bigger due to the extra layer it added. As someone whose wardrobe is pretty much made up of tight clothing this proved a bit of a problem meaning I’ve only really used it around the house. I can see how belly binding would help, but I’m not sure the design of this product is really going to offer a great deal of benefits and wearing it on a daily basis would take some getting use to.
Unsatisfied with my belly binder I made another purchase. This time a brand I’d seen appear in most of my Google searches. The Upspring C Panty is a pair of large pants in bold packaging stating that they will slim belly and flatten c-section bulge, support weakened abdominal muscles and speed recovery and shrink uterus. I'm not too sure if they have any proof of living up to claims of shrinking a uterus, its certainly a bold statement, that would be hard to prove either way. Of my three purchases, their packaging was by far the most attractive with modern bright colours and clear pictures and had I been looking at these items in a shop, this would have been the one I’d brought. I purchased my C-Panty direct from their website, www.cpanty.co.uk though their products are available from a number of online outlets. They offer the choice of “classic” or “tummy shaper”, classic being a fairly normal looking pair of pants and tummy shaper being a high waisted pair. I opted for the less attractive tummy shaper, priced at £31.00, as anything to help return my tummy to its pre pregnancy shape was always going to be a winner for me, provided it works of course. The tummy shaper offers “moderate medical grade compression” to help reduce swelling, and has a silicone panel to help reduce scar, redness and itching. On first look, I felt of the three products these looked like they’d be the most successful, they have a sturdy, don’t mess with me kind of look about them and the silicone panel just looks clever, like someone knows what they’re doing. On pulling these massive pants on, they definitely felt tighter and less comfortable than the Cantaloop pants which were a lower cut fit, but were still easy enough to wear all day without really being aware of them. Unfortunately as I had a big baby, I had in turn got a larger than average scar, meaning the silicone panel was not long enough to cover the scar, and the chunky stitching around the panel seemed to rub against my healing wound and irritate it. This resulted in me wearing them less than I had intended to and feeling somewhat concerned that the panels stitching may in fact make things worse rather than heal. Aside from that they felt good quality and like a good sturdy pair of pants that your nan and surgeon alike would most definitely approve of. Pricewise they are not a cheap option if you wish to wear them daily and would therefore need more than one pair.
Four weeks on from my c-section I am still using all of these products as I have not fully recovered yet. I have definitely noticed I’ve slimmed a lot quicker than I expected and I do believe they have sped up the healing process but as I have alternated between the three products its impossible to say which was most successful. I used the Carriwell belly binder the least as it offered the least in terms of practicality and comfort. The Cantaloop pants were by far the most comfortable but the snapped elastic left me feeling their quality could be improved upon, and the C- Panty could for most people be a great item but the silicone panel being too short made them less suitable for me.
If I were to have a c-section again (when Hell freezes over) I would definitely invest in these kind of products again, and would probably find myself shopping for the Cantaloop pants and one of the more expensive, well reviewed belly binders from another company. That said, as much as they’ve helped, I cannot wait to ditch my c-section pants and get back into my thongs and French knickers, I’m not quite ready to commit my days to big pants just yet!