Q: Master and myself are interested in the waist training, but the little that we have read makes mention of how internal organs are "rearranged". Our question is this: Does this "rearranging" have any effect on a woman's ability to become pregnant, stay pregnant, etc? We at some point are wishing to have children, but do not want to jeopardize our chances of this. We cannot find any mention of this in the literature we have read thus far. Any information or answers to this question would be greatly appreciated. --Kelley (1/27/00)

A: You raise an important question, and I'll attempt to explain this in sufficient detail. First let us discuss what is likely being "rearranged" by waist training. Then I'll discuss the reproductive concerns.

Light corseting (<2") is not likely to rearrange anything at all. The female body contains considerable (24-29% average) body fat, and in most corset wearing this is all that is moved around. Further tightening (2-3") will make use of the volume of relaxing torso muscles as the corset assumes this task. This is what a wearer must become accustomed to before commencing further restriction. A good corset (fashionable or orthopedic) allows you to stand and sit in a way that is relaxed and balanced; if not, it's not fitted properly to the body and causes unnatural strain on the muscles, causing backaches and even spasms. 

Further constriction (4 to 6") will begin to limit the excursion of the diaphragm and you'll need to adopt upper-chest breathing. At this time the chest cavity (contained by the upper ribs and the diaphragm) still has the same volume, but the inhale/exhale ratio is reduced, meaning reserves for exertion will be reduced, yet not significantly for normal routine.

The lower ribs will be moving inward in front and down on the sides, reducing the upper GI (gastro intestinal) volume (liver, stomach, spleen etc.).  The largest of these organs, the liver and the stomach, are affected differently. The stomach when empty is very small, and accommodates the compression by creating a "full" sensation with minimal food intake. The liver is quite mobile (it moves up and down with every breath if you don't wear a corset) and remains in the "down" position, somewhat rotated, to fit in the narrowed lower chest. The upper GI then pushes down on the small intestines and the colon, increasing Intra-Abdominal Pressure, or IAP. In orthopedics this is used to unload the spine.  For example: tight support belts are now in use by people required to do heavy lifting, and some companies require employees to wear them, as it reduces back injuries.

In summary, the rearranging is less dramatic than is frequently published and it in itself is not a reason for concern, but proper fitting and gradual training is.

To answer the reproductive question, I will first comment on potential consequences for the reproductive system: The uterus and ovaries are located above and in front of the bladder, but well below the waist. Although no direct constriction is placed there, they will be subjected to increased IAP. 

IAP can vary a great deal, and before injurious levels are reached one would have to exceed at least 30mm Hg, or .5lbs per square inch. For an average build woman this would have to be about 200lbs! I do not believe corsets were ever made to be that tight. Studies from the late 1800's indicated measured pressures up to 90 lbs in very tight corsets, considerably less than the 200 lbs where circulation would be affected.

Compression of muscles however can lead to weakening of the abdominal wall, so regular exercise in and out of the corset is strongly recommended. There are localized problems resulting from improper corset design or wear causing local pressures to exceed the 30mmHg and create numbness by compromising circulation and pinching nerves. 

As far as corset wear during pregnancy. I would recommend against any kind of training during pregnancy. However, I do not see an issue with wearing a corset for support if it is designed for this purpose. There are various orthopedic garments available today, primarily to help support the back in coping with the forward imbalance. Some are sometimes used to immobilize the fetus prior to delivery, allowing for proper positioning.

I am aware of the fact that during the Victorian era women tight-laced half way through the pregnancy, in part to conceal the condition, as they otherwise would not be expected to show themselves in public, but also because they did not exercise and needed support for their body. Even though many carried full term, I would not recommend the tight-lacing that was common during those pregnancies.

In summary, proper waist training before pregnancy is not an issue, during the first few months only modest lacing should be tolerated, but I would recommend a proper support garment for the remainder of the pregnancy, but your own comfort level will tell you quickly what you are doing. Breathing and digestion are very much affected by the growing uterus, which displaces all the organs to make room.

As I have seen aptly pointed out at this site, pregnancy is certainly harder on the body than most corseting!



Return to Main Medical Advice Page

Return to LISA's Main Page