There are a lot of parts of your body that need some extra love during pregnancy, but do you know what needs some of the most care?
Yes, THOSE girls. During pregnancy, your body expands in all directions, and your breasts are not the exception. To prevent post-pregnancy sagging (and during-pregnancy discomfort), it’s critical that you wear a bra that’s both supportive and properly fitted. Here’s what you need to know – along with our top picks to hoist those hooters.
Why Do I Need a Maternity Bra?
During pregnancy, everything in your body grows and swells. Your breasts are no different. You will likely find yourself needing both a different cup and band size over the course of your pregnancy. This is due to (source):
- Hormonal shifts
- Weight gain
- Expanded rib cage
- Milk production
How Is a Maternity Bra Different from a Regular Bra?
There isn’t a whole lot of difference between regular and maternity bras, but some of the variations you will see are:
- No Underwire: Not only can underwire be uncomfortable as your rib cage expands, but they can also damage and clog milk ducts (source).
- Soft Cups: Your breasts are sensitive; you don’t need your bra making them even more uncomfortable.
- Wider Shoulder Straps: These offer more support and can also help reduce the strain on your lower back.
- More Hooks: Not only will you see an extra row of hooks to make your bra more secure, but you may notice that it can be adjusted to more sizes, allowing you to use it longer.
Is A Maternity Bra the Same as a Nursing Bra?
All maternity bras are not nursing bras, but some nursing bras can be used as maternity bras.
The point of a maternity bra is to give you support for your larger, heavier breasts. Similarly, nursing bras are designed to hold larger, milk-filled breasts but ALSO offer an easy way to expose the nipple without removing the bra in order to facilitate nursing. Most nursing bras have some sort of clasp, clip, or panel to expose the breast.
Remember: Nursing bras are completely acceptable for use as a maternity bra, however, before spending the money on an expensive, fancy nursing bra and justifying the expense by saying that you’ll be able to get months of use out of it due to its versatility you need to understand that the size of your breasts toward the end of pregnancy and during the postpartum period will be very unpredictable.
Immediately after delivery your breasts may engorge, and when your milk comes in they’ll be a different size altogether. In fact, you can be two different cup sizes throughout the course of a single day. Around your baby’s four-month birthday your milk supply will settle down and you’ll probably find yourself needing yet another bra.
All this to say that you should buy a bra that meets your needs for support and comfort at the moment you’re buying it, not because you think it will meet a future need. If the bra you’re buying for your pregnancy happens to have nursing panels, great – it may fit you again at some point, but there’s no guarantee of that happening.
At What Point in Pregnancy Should I Buy a Maternity Bra?
You should buy a maternity bra when your regular bras no longer feel comfortable. For some women this may be during their first trimester, while other women might not need one until their third. As with all things pregnancy, each woman’s body is different.
What Are the Characteristics of a Bra that Fits Properly?
Your bra fits properly when (source):
- It is comfortable.
- The center panel (between your breasts) sits against your skin.
- There are no gaps between your breasts and the cups.
- Your breasts don’t spill out over the cups.
- Your straps don’t fall down.
- Your straps don’t dig into your shoulders.
- It doesn’t cause lumps of “back fat.”
- The band in the back sits (and stays) parallel or slightly lower than where it rests in front.
How Many Maternity Bras Do I Need?
You will likely need several maternity bras throughout the course of your pregnancy, but we don’t recommend buying an entire wardrobe’s worth in one shopping spree. The reason is because your body will continue to change – so what fits today may feel snug next month.
Instead, buy 2-3 maternity bras and rotate them between wash and wear until you feel like you need a better fit. Then, buy 2-3 more.
What Should I Look for in a Maternity Bra?
When buying a maternity bra, look for the following:
- No Underwire: You don’t want to cause damage to your milk ducts. Besides, wires can be uncomfortable.
- Flexible: Both your cup and band size will continue to grow throughout pregnancy. Choose a bra that will be adjustable so you don’t outgrow it quickly.
- Good Coverage: Your nipples will do weird things during pregnancy – and they also might leak colostrum a bit toward the end of it. Choose a bra with good coverage and maybe even a little bit of padding to prevent any embarrassing “wardrobe malfunctions.”
- Thick Straps: Thicker straps will provide better support and be more comfortable.
- Soft Cups: You want to be comfortable; choose soft-lined cups that will not rub, irritate, or chafe your nipples.
- Wide Band: A wide band will help provide support. Make sure your bra not only has a wide band, but that it is secured by more than one clasp.
- Nursing Panels: Do not buy a bra simply because you will be able to use it when nursing. However, if you find one that meets your maternity needs and ALSO will have the dual purpose of a nursing bra, by all means go for it.
Maternity Bra Reviews
Best Maternity Bras for Large Breasts
If you have large breasts, you know the havoc they can wreak on your back. Choose a bra that offers solid support in the shoulders and band. You’ve got enough back pain with your pregnancy, no need to make your chest exacerbate the issue.
Kindred Braverly Simply Sublime
The elastic on this bra is stretchy enough to accommodate your changing body, but firm enough to offer good support. With full-coverage cups and a wide band with three clasps, you can bet that your girls will be secure this bra.
Curve Muse Plus Size Bra
Underwire generally isn’t recommended, but if you have large breasts sometimes you just don’t have a choice. Elastic cups aren’t always going to hold you in. The good news is that if you choose a properly-fitting bra so that the underwire doesn’t dig into your breast tissue, you should be fine wearing an underwire bra. Pair it with a bra extender to make sure it doesn’t fit too tight. This bra is not only supportive for large-chested women, but it’s also cute – and you get a three-pack to boot.
Bamboobies Seamless Nursing Bra
This bra fits bodies all the way up to size 42-F, but can be used on larger women with the included extender. It’s made of ultra-soft bamboo rayon and supportive enough to be used during light exercise. It’s even versatile and has nursing panels so you’ll be able to use it after the baby arrives.
Best Maternity Bras for Small Breasts
Small breasts pose their own unique challenge. You don’t want the cups gaping and causing an unflattering silhouette under your shirts. Choose a bra with appropriately-sized cups and well-fitting bands to ensure a good fit.
Seamless Demi-Cup Nursing Bralette
This bra was designed specifically for small-breasted mamas, with cup sizes A to C. It has a lower profile so it can be worn under more outfits without your bra peeking out. Made of nylon, spandex, and cotton, this super-stretchy bra will adjust as your breasts and body change, and can also double as a nursing bra after delivery.
Gratlin Racerback Seamless Support Bra
This bra will fit women as small as 32-A. It has a densely knitted underband to prevent sagging even though there is no underwire, and the hook-and-eye closures allow for a custom fit even though the design resembles a sports bra. Finally, because it’s not padded, it will conform to your unique shape rather than trying to fit your uniquely-sized breasts into a pre-molded form.
Topwhere Seamless Push Up
This bra fits a wide variety of body sizes – simply check the sizing chart to choose the right size. The elastic cups will cradle your breasts at any size and the soft material will be comfortable whether you choose to wear it day or night. Plus, it’s got a push-up effect so even though you might not have a large chest, you can make the most of what you’ve got.
Best Plus Size Maternity Bras
If you’re a plus-size woman, you don’t want to just buy a DD cup and call it good. You need a bra that was created specifically for your body and fits well. Make sure you choose the proper cup and band size for a comfortable fit.
PureSilk Front Hook Nursing Bra
This bra is available all the way to size 4x. It clasps in the front with four large hook-and-eye closures, and super-thick straps offer support. Instead of a band, there’s a scoop-neck back, spreading out the weight in your breasts for reduced back and neck strain. It’s even machine washable to fit your busy lifestyle.
Motherhood Sports Wireless Nursing Bra
This bra is available from sizes 1x-3x and has elastic construction to allow for potential changes in breast size along with thick, supportive straps to keep your breasts from weighing you down. Top it off with a thick band and a cute design, and this is a great and versatile option for the plus-size woman who’s expecting.
Gratlin Full Figure Wire-Free Bra
Following traditional bra sizing, you can order your exact band and cup size for a perfect fit. The lacey design can help you to feel sexy, and the wireless support will keep your girls exactly where they belong. It also has SIX rows of hook-and-eye closures, so as your rib cage expands you can adjust your bra without needing to buy a new one.
Best Maternity Sleeping Bras
You still need support when you’re sleeping, but you don’t want it to be constricting. Choose soft and elastic construction for your maternity sleeping bra – and this is one time you can be almost certain that a nursing bra will work.
Kindred Braverly Terry Scoopback Sleep Bra
The ultra-soft French Terry material will be soft against your skin while sleeping, and the stretch of the fabric was designed to accommodate your growing (or shrinking) size. It has no wires, clasps, or hooks making it both comfy AND easy to use as a nursing bra in the middle of the night. This bra is available in a range of colors and sizes, so there is one to fit every woman’s body and preferences.
EMY Sleep Bra 4 Pack
This 4-pack is perfect for the economical-minded mama; not only do you get a great price, but you’ll be able to use the bras after your baby arrives for night nursing. Plus, they’re super cute. The cotton-spandex construction is soft but supportive, and it has spots to insert nursing pads if you find you’re leaking colostrum as your due date approaches.
iiSPORT Sleep Bra
If you need more solid support overnight than is typically provided by a night-nursing bra, this one has thick straps that can even cross in the back, resembling a sports bra. The elastic construction and zero-compression design makes it comy enough to sleep in, but supportive enough to meet your needs.
Best Supportive Maternity Bras
Back, neck, and shoulder pain can all be the result of an ineffective, unsupportive bra. Choose a bra with wide straps, a good band, and several clasps to make sure your bra stays in place and offers as much support as possible.
Embroidered Lace Push Up Bra
This bra is not only gorgeous, but supportive as well. It’s available in a wide array of regular bra sizes (band + cup sizes as opposed to the generic S, M, and L) to ensure a good fit, it’s got thick, adjustable straps, and a thick band. Top it off with a whopping FIVE hook-and-loop clasps and you’ve got yourself a bra that will hold everything exactly where it should be.
Carriwell GelWire Nursing Bra
Underwire is generally frowned upon during pregnancy and nursing, but this innovative “gelwire” provides support without the discomfort and damage. The non-hardening gel molds around breasts to help prevent tissue damage, but is still pliable enough to move around as necessary as your body changes. Combine that with thick straps and a wide band and you’ve got support that doesn’t look like a sports bra.
Cotton Maternity Nursing Bra
No underwire here – only support through design, engineering, and stitching. The four hook-and-eye closures in the front help to offer an additional level of support, combining with wide straps and a thick band. Plus the crop-top style is uber-cute and keeps you much more stylish than your typical nursing bra.
Best Nursing Maternity Bras
If you’ve got to buy new bras for such a short event such as pregnancy, it’s understandable that you want them to be useful for as long as possible. If you want to buy a nursing bra to double as a maternity bra, choose one that’s flexible and will fit your body through a number of sizes.
Branii Full Support Bra
This bra is made of comfy cotton, sturdy enough to provide great support even though it doesn’t have an underwire, and has molded cups which help make it look great underneath your clothes. It comes with both a bra extender and strap clips. Plus it has thick straps and a really wide band to keep the pressure off your back and neck.
Voygal Seamless Nursing Bra
The seamless design eliminates chafing, and the elastic construction will allow this bra to conform to your body. It has a wide band with three hook-and-eye loops for maximum support, and removable padding to wash separately if you need. Plus, it’s got a nursing panel so you’ll be able to wear it through the pregnancy and postpartum periods.
Best Wireless Maternity Bras
An underwire can dig into the underside of your breasts, causing not only discomfort but also potential damage to your milk ducts. Choosing one without a wire will not only help increase your comfort, but also not inhibit your ability to nurse.
Wire-free Front Button Nursing Bra
A bra doesn’t have to be boring…but unfortunately, many of them are. These are cute, floral, and even give you a nice little sexy shape with the front-button feature. They still have the supportive straps you crave, along with four hook-and-eye loops in the back – all without the pain of an underwire.
Aibrou Wirefree Padded Bra
This bra comes with a bra extender to help you get the most wear out of it despite your growing, changing body. It also has built-in, removable padding that you can wash if your breasts leak. The elastic construction will also help to extend its wearable life, and since it has nursing panels you’ll even be able to use it after the baby comes.
Best Maternity Sports Bras
You want to stay active during your pregnancy – but the girls still need some support. To reduce your risk of damaging your breast tissue during exercise, pick a sports bra. (Hint: they’re also a super-comfy option for all of you non-active mamas, too.)
Fittin Racerback Sports Bra
If you’re doing some serious workouts during pregnancy, then you’re going to want to skip the nursing/maternity bras and go straight for a regular sports bra. This one doesn’t sit too low on the torso (you know, where it might run into your belly), wicks sweat away from your skin during your workout, and helps to keep you cool. All those things are way more important when you’re working out while pregnant than whether it says “maternity” on the label, anyway.
AKAMC Removable Padded Sports Bras
These bras are made of breathable and moisture-wicking fabric, and also have removable cups. The cups offer support and help maintain the integrity of the breast tissue, but as a pregnant woman you can remove them if you need a little more space as you start to outgrow your bra. The racerback design supports a full range of motion and when you’re done with your workout, you can just toss this in the wash as it’s machine washable.
Best Cheap Maternity Bras
We get it. If you’re only going to be wearing your bra for a couple of months you don’t want to spend a fortune. Thankfully, it’s possible to get both value AND function with these options.
HOFISH Full Bust Nursing Bralette
This bra should carry you through many different stages of pregnancy and nursing for just one low price. The elastic construction is forgiving and will allow you to wear it at multiple sizes, it comes with bra extenders to enable you to wear it no matter how big your rib cage gets, and also has nursing panels so you can use if after the baby arrives. For the amount of use you’ll get out of it, this is a great value.
Caramel Cantina 3 Pack
With this set you get THREE bras for less than the price you’d expect to pay for one. And not only that – you get to choose between traditional colors or a bolder set. They are machine washable and also come with nursing clips, so with this one set can take you through many months of pregnancy and nursing.
Best Maternity Bra & Underwear Sets
We talk a lot about comfort when you’re pregnant, but you still want to feel sexy sometimes, too. While you might not be able to walk into the typical lingerie store, you can still find matching bra and undie sets to keep you feeling desirable.
Lingerie4Moms Bra & Panty Set
Between the jeweled top and sheer boyshort bottoms, this set is sexy and stunning. Whether you’re secretly wearing it beneath your clothes or strutting your stuff in front of your man, you’ll feel fab – all while rocking your gorgeous pregnant bod. The bra has built-in extenders so you can get the maximum life out of it and can also be used as a nursing bra after the baby arrives.
MTRNTY Soft Cotton Underwear Set
This whimsical set provides sufficient support for your upper body while also cradling your belly. It’s made of a soft cotton blend for ultimate comfort, and the bra can even be used for nursing if it still fits after you deliver your baby.
Best Maternity Bra Extenders
Want to know a little secret? Just because your bra doesn’t fit doesn’t always mean to need to spend money to buy a whole new one. If the cups still fit but you just need a bigger band because of an expanding rib cage, you can buy a bra extender. These economical solutions attach to your bra clasps and give you a little more life out of your too-small bra.
Bra Extender 9-Pack Set
This set will help you to extend ALL your bras. This 9-pack comes with extenders for 2-, 3-, and 4-hook bras in white, nude, and black. This is the only set you’ll need to lengthen the wearable life your your too-tight bras.
Cotton Bra Extension Strap 6-Pack
This pack gives you 2- and 3-hook extensions in white, nude, and black. They also have an elastic band to increase the comfort and fit of your bra. They are soft, flexible, and comfortable and work with most bras.
Maidenform Three-Hook Bra Extender
If you have a bra with wider spacing (¾ inches between the hooks) then you’ll need a bra extender that will line up with them. This three-pack comes in white, nude, and black and does not feature elastic so the fit remains solid and firm. It is backed with a soft lining so it is comfortable against your skin.
Our Favorite Is …
My top pick is the Embroidered Lace Push Up Bra. It’s wire-free, has excellent support via the wide straps, thick band, and full cups, offers full coverage, and has 5 clasps in the back. Plus it’s padded, creates a great silhouette, and is beautiful. There are so many “blah” maternity bras on the market, and this one is both stunning and completely functional.
You probably knew you’d need to buy maternity pants and shirts when you got pregnant, but don’t forget to pay close attention to your bra, too If you wear one that doesn’t fit right it can not only cause pain and posture problems, but nursing problems as well. Here’s to keeping our girls happy!