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How to choose maternity underwear

Being pregnant comes with plenty of changes to both your body and lifestyle, but one thing that may have not crossed your mind is the need to overhaul your underwear. Decent maternity underwear can make all the difference to your pregnancy experience, as well as vastly improve any outfit.

During those first couple of weeks of your first trimester, you may still be comfortable in your regular underwear, but as your body changes, you may want to switch to more accommodating options. Read on to discover how to choose maternity underwear.

When should I start wearing maternity underwear?

There is no set rule as to when you should start wearing maternity underwear. Some women pile on the pounds right from the beginning of the pregnancy, while others only gain weight in the last couple of months. You will find that maternity underwear can help you feel more comfortable in the third trimester or the last couple of weeks of your second trimester.

How many pairs will I need?

That depends on how often you plan to do laundry – just keep in mind that as you progress in your pregnancy, your energy levels inevitably go down, so you'll want to make sure you have at least a couple of days' worth of underwear on hand.

Types of maternity underwear

There are several options to consider:

  • Over-the-bump styles

These varieties offer full coverage of the bump, with the waistband sitting well over your navel, and if you’re heavily pregnant, they may even stretch up to around your ribcage.

While over-the-bump styles are not particularly flattering, they are great options for expectant women looking for extra support and full coverage, or chilly seasons when you don't want to expose your belly to the cold. They also prevent chafing, which you'll especially appreciate if you hate the feeling of your belly against your clothing.

  • Under-the-bump styles

These are designed to stay out of your way, sitting under the belly like other low-rise underwear. They are more lightweight than their over-the bump counterparts, but they may not be suitable if you’re looking for coverage and support. Under-the-bump styles are great for the first few months of pregnancy.

  • Special feature underwear

Some brands make maternity underwear with heavy-duty support panels to accommodate bigger bumps. Others are built with extra absorbent panels to help you feel dry and comfortable throughout the day, and others have seamless designs to help you avoid visible pant lines.

Shopping for maternity bras

At about 16 weeks, you will notice that your breasts begin to outgrow your beloved bras. When your sleek, carefully chosen fashion bras can no longer accommodate their charges, it's time to switch to a maternity bra.

Maternity bras are specially constructed to provide you with a level of support that your typical lingerie simply can’t match. It’s easy to dismiss the importance of a maternity bra and opt to go for a bigger size of your regular bra, but when you start spilling out of your bra cups and you find you’re adjusting the straps several times a day, you start to realize the importance of a specially-made bra.

How do I find the best fit?

    Most conventional lingerie rules simply don’t apply to maternity bras. For the best experience, consider finding a professional bra fitter. Many mall-based sellers and mass merchants of underwear typically have a staffer on hand to help you find a good fit, but specialty stores that exclusively cater to maternity wear will have a certified specialist on staff. 

    Here are a couple more fitting tips to keep in mind:

    • For the cup size, use a measuring tape to get the measurement around the fullest part of your bust. Make sure that the tape is level around your body and flat against your back.
    • For the band size, measure just under the arms using a measuring tape. If the resulting measurement is an odd number, round up to the next even number.
    • Always try on a maternity bra before buying it – this is the only way to make sure that you find one that fits properly.

    Maternity bras that feature underwires are a source of controversy because some experts believe that the rigid wire puts too much unnecessary pressure on the breast. However, you can now find maternity bras that feature flexible plastic support that is similar to an underwire. If you're used to wearing regular bras with an underwire, you may be comfortable trying it out in a maternity bra as well.

    What should I look for?

      When shopping for a maternity bra, keep the following in mind:

      1. Support

      Look for an under-bust band, wide, non-slip straps, and a deep center at the front to provide support.

      2. Comfort

      Cotton is the most suitable material for maternity bras. Pregnancy can raise your body temperature, so a bra with a cotton lining will allow your skin to breathe and reduce irritation.

      3. Adjustability

      Look for a maternity bra that has at least four hooks and eyes on its back band to allow for adjustability as your breasts increase in size.

      4. Coverage

      You want to have as much fabric as possible covering your breasts. This way, you’ll stay comfortable even as your breasts become more sensitive.

      Additional buying tips
        • Buy at least two or three maternity bras.  Make sure you launder them often.
        • Your bra size will change – the maternity bras that you wore in your first (or even second) trimester) may no longer fit, so be prepared to make another shopping trip in those last few weeks.
        • Consider nursing bras. They offer the same support as standard maternity bras, plus you save a bit of money especially if you plan to breastfeed.

        Final thoughts

        As your tummy burgeons along with your hips and the rest of your body, you will find that wearing your old underwear becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Keep in mind that you are housing a tiny human inside of you, so you need to make comfort a top priority, both for you and his/her sake. So don't beat yourself up about outgrowing your favorite lingerie – you'll bounce back soon enough. For now, your focus should be on choosing the most suitable underwear for you.

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