CHAPTER XV
MATERNITY CORSETS AND BRASSIERES

BODILY changes during pregnancy–Fit at the fourth month–Types of maternity belts–Instructions on lacing–Post-natal care–Adjustable brassieres–Nursing brassieres.

Pregnancy develops
FIG. 41. THE POSITION AND SHAPE OF THE UTERUS AS PREGNANCY DEVELOPS

WHEN a woman is pregnant, strain is put upon her tissues as the embryo increases in size from month to month. Considerable changes take place internally as the uterus, ordinarily a small pelvic organ about three inches long, rises in the abdomen almost to the breastbone. So far as the corsetiere is concerned, the changes are noticeable chiefly in the distention of the abdominal wall, and in the breasts, which enlarge in preparation for lactation.

The pregnant woman usually feels she wants something to support her back, for the weight at the front of the body moves the centre of gravity forward, makes the motherto-be throw her head and shoulders back, and so increases the lumbar curve (Fig. 41). Considerable strain is thus thrown on the long back extensor muscles and on the gluteus muscles. In most cases it is advisable to give the muscles some help in supporting the extra weight, and a supporting belt should be worn.   '

Many women come into the corset department when their pregnancy begins to be uncomfortable and ask for an inexpensive wrap-round, or even an ordinary lacing corset, which they can let out as the months go by.

Ordinary corsets will not, however, give the required support, and the corsetiere should tactfully persuade the mother-to-be for her own and her baby's sake to be fitted with a specially designed maternity belt.

Fit at the Fourth Month

The maternity belt should be fitted at the fourth month, when there is still little extension of the abdomen, and the belt should be chosen at this stage by the actual waist measurement prevailing at the time of fitting. If fitted with all lacing closed up at four months, the same maternity belt should serve for the duration of the pregnancy.

maternity belt
(a)
maternity belt
(b)
maternity belt
(c)

FIG. 42. TIME STYLES IN MATERNITY BELTS–(a) STEP-IN; (b) HOOKSIDE; AND (C) THE HEAVIER, SEMI-SURGICAL BELT

Styles of maternity belts vary slightly (Fig. 42), the most commonly found styles, which appear in varying depths, are–

1. The light, step-in style laced at both sides.

2. The light, hook-side style, laced at both sides.

3. The heavier, semi-surgical belt.

Most young women who are not used to wearing firm corsets normally will prefer the first or second of the above, but where a woman is normally large of figure and her pregnancy calls for considerable support, the third type will be necessary.

The following diagram and instructions for lacing show the type of adjustable lacing incorporated in one well-known maternity belt.

Instructions for Lacing

1. Starting at the bottom two eyelets, insert the lace from outside, so that a bar is formed. Check that the loose ends are even (Fig. 43).

2. Cross them underneath, and pass both ends under and out of the second eyelets. Cross them on the outside, and pass" the laces under and out of the third eyelets.

3. Here form a lock. This is most important in the lacing of a maternity corset. The ends are now on the outside of the third eyelet. Take the left end and pass it over and into the right eyelet; now take the right end and pass it over and into the left third eyelet, thus forming a double bar or lock on the outside.

maternity belt

FIG. 43. HOW TO LACE A MATERNITY BELT

4. Now the ends are again underneath; cross them and bring them up into the fourth eyelets. Cross them on top, and pass them under and out into the fifth eyelets. Continue in this manner to the top, taking care to keep the same lace always on top.

The lock lace allows the wearer to open the lacing as the figure increases in size, yet it ensures that the lacing will not work itself more open, during wear, below the lock lace. This gives a firm support across the lower abdomen just where it is needed.

Post-natal Conditions

After the baby is born, the enlarged tissues of the mother's body often need help in getting back to their normal condition. Every structure connected with pregnancy has undergone change during that period; these structures must all return to normal, and the process ordinarily takes from eight to ten weeks.

The uterus, just after the baby is born, is estimated to weigh about two and one-fifth pounds. It has to get back to the few ounces' weight of normal times. This means that a very large amount of tissue must disappear after it has ceased to be needed. Then the walls of the abdomen are left lax and flabby, due to the previous stretching, and great care must be taken or the flaccid condition may become permanent and the lower abdomen develop a pouch.

Many authorities prescribe an abdominal support to be worn when the mother begins to stand on her feet again, so that the viscera do not press against the abdominal walls before the muscles have fully regained their tone. For a normal post-natal fitting, a front-lacing corset usually proves satisfactory. Such a support also steadies and protects the pelvic joints, which have been softened and relaxed during pregnancy, and the rigidity of these is of vital importance in preserving good body mechanics or good posture.

Maternity Brassieres

Nursing brassiere
FIG. 44. TYPE OF NURSING BRASSIERE WITH FRONT FASTENING AND ABSORBENT PADS

During pregnancy while the breasts are enlarging in preparation for lactation, the mother-to-be feels she needs to have the increasing weight of her breasts lifted from the breast tissues, and she feels perhaps a little self-conscious about her developing figure. A good maternity brassiere is a great help at this time. It will differ from her usual brassiere size by being bigger in the bust cup and often it will have wider shoulder straps to help to take the increased weight. The principal feature will, of course, be the introduction of back or side lacing to allow for adjustment. As the figure develops, the increased size is felt high in the abdominal cavity and any pressure over the diaphragm area is apt to be uncomfortable.

Nursing brassieres are, as the name implies, designed for wear during the months when the mother is breast-feeding her baby. At this time the breasts need support for comfort and because, if left unsupported, they will usually lose their firm contours for good.

The bust pockets of the nursing brassiere are usually lined with a soft absorbent type of material which has good laundering qualities, and is made with flattened scams which will not rub and irritate the breast, which is very soft and tender. Some nursing brassieres contain absorbent washable pads which can be fitted into small pockets in the cups, so that they can be removed and laundered frequently, or are designed with removable waterproof inter-linings in the cups (Fig. 44).

It is quite often advisable to fit a post-natal or nursing brassiere which has, like the pre-natal ones, some method of adjustment. The brassiere can be fitted with the lacing opened so that, as the figure reduces in size, the brassiere can be drawn in, thus keeping a firm support for the breasts all the time.

Some brassieres are designed to be used as both pre-natal and postnatal garments. This type is likely to have some kind of lacing adjustment, also a fastening at the centre front to make it suitable as a nursing brassiere. The laces, which have been let out prior to the birth of the child, can then be drawn in as necessary.

CHAPTER XVI