Maternity Bras

Nov 18, 2018 | Bra Options, Hurray for Lingerie, Underneath | 0 comments

Are you expecting? If you are looking for bras to wear during pregnancy, or need help finding a bra that fits while you’re pregnant, I’m here to help!

I loooove helping women when they are pregnant. I truly think pregnant people are the most beautiful people. There’s so much power, beauty, and natural grace about a woman who is expecting. And, phew, do I know it’s hard to shop for bras during pregnancy. That’s why in my many years as a bra fitter I loved serving expecting moms. Their bodies and bra size are changing so much, and being able to support them during a massive time of transition was a real blessing in my own life. In fact, I have seen and heard it ALL and feel super prepared if and when I ever have kids, because now I know what in the world happens to the body and bust during pregnancy.

I could go on forever and ever but I’ll cut to the chase and give you the good stuff. I know why you’re here. You want help shopping for maternity bras and want to know what bras to wear during pregnancy, right? Don’t worry, lovely, I got you! Below you’ll find some basic and important information on maternity bras (and why they are different from nursing bras) along with a list of a few examples of some of my favorite styles! Every pregnancy and every body is different, so try out a few and see what works for you. Here to help you say hurray inside, outside, and underneath™! 

PS: Some of the styles mentioned or links included are brand partners or affiliate links. That means I may earn a commission or payment if you make a purchase. As always I share my honest and expert opinion and am here to help. Thanks for saying hurray for lingerie with me!

What is a maternity bra?

A maternity bra is a bra you wear during pregnancy and shortly after giving birth. Maternity bras may have a special design that makes them well suited for this time, or they may be a “regular” bra that fits and functions well during pregnancy.

It’s important to note that a maternity and a nursing bra are not interchangeable. While some nursing bras can be a type of maternity bra (because they can be worn shortly after giving birth), nursing bras are specifically designed with a function for breastfeeding. They are designed to be worn postpartum. The majority of use for a maternity bra is during pregnancy as your body is changing and growing, and for that, you don’t need nursing bra clips.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is when pregnant clients wear nursing bras early on in their pregnancy, assuming that this is the kind of maternity bra they’ll need. The truth is that your body will most likely change a great deal before it’s time to nurse, should you decide or be able to nurse. This article will focus on how to find your size and shop for bras to be worn during pregnancy and into the initial engorgement period just after childbirth. Look for an upcoming blog post on shopping for nursing bras.

When should I shop for maternity bras?

I suggest shopping for maternity bras as soon as you see or feel a difference in your bust and body. That can be as early as 4 weeks or much later into your pregnancy. The key is to lovingly keep an eye on not just how full your bust looks, but also how you feel. It’s your body and only you know when you feel discomfort or are lacking in support. Usually, the most dramatic changes in your bust happen during the first trimester, when some of my clients have said it feels like their breasts “grew overnight!” Your body is going through a great deal of changes during this time, so pay attention to your breasts as they may get sore, heavy, and grow several cup sizes.

Keep in mind that breasts may change several times throughout your pregnancy, so I suggest checking in on your size and adjusting your bras as necessary, or at least 2-3 times or each trimester during the course of your pregnancy. While each pregnancy is different, that’s a good rule of thumb to follow (and a good reminder to check in on the fit of your bras!) Usually you can expect both your bust and band to increase, and knowing when to adjust each and when to use your sister size is important.

For that reason, I suggest purchasing just 3 or so at a time (as opposed to my normal 5-7) so that you have enough to wear, wash, and rotate but also aren’t investing hundreds of dollars into bras you may shortly outgrow. And as I suggest in my How to Shop for Bras on a Budget article, you may also want to spend less on maternity bras since you may not get as many wears out of them as usual. But be careful that less money doesn’t mean less support, because your bust will be heavier and fuller than before and will need the lift for your comfort!

How can I find my pregnancy bra size?

I usually suggest to go in for a bra fitting at a great boutique because, well, I’m a bra fitter and I know just how helpful expertise can be during this time. Navigating bra sizing and getting a good fit across several styles and brands can be tricky, even during regular life times amidst typical monthly bodily changes. So when your body is rapidly changing and transitioning, it may be a good idea to lean on the support of a professional.

That being said, I always advise everyone to get to know and understand their body for themselves. Whether you shop with a fitter, by yourself, or even online take your current bra size measurements to determine your bra size starting points, and try on from there. That way you can make an informed and loving decision about what you put on your body.

Step 1: Use my instructions and a soft measuring tape to check on your bust and underbust measurements often and check in on your bra size starting points.

Step 2: An additional option for measuring during pregnancy is to take your overbust measurement. This is found by wrapping the tape above your bust and around you back. Your band size may be similar to that number and it’s a great way to double check your bra size during maternity time. I mention and show this at the bottom of my More Than My Numbers story on Ferna, the lovely expecting momma you see in the title images of this post.

Step 3: Use my resources page with my top guides on bra sizing like: How to Tell if Your Bra Fits, Sister Sizing, and Why 9 Bra Sizes Can Fit. (There’s much more, too! You may also like my Bra Care guide and how to be BFFs with your Body.) Make sure you check out the information below for specific fit tips for maternity time!

What should I look for in a maternity bra? How should a maternity bra fit?

You can use my usual 5 Bra Fit Tips to determine if your bra fits well. These are the most important guidelines to follow that I’ve compiled after fitting thousands of people into cup sizes A to N. Yep! Use the video or the PDF guide to learn the basics of how your band, straps, and cup should fit, and be sure to include the additional tips in this section.

I suggest to purchase maternity bras that fit well (snug) with the back band adjusted to the middle hook. This is different than what I usually suggest of buying bras snug on the loosest hook. That’s because if your bra stretches (it’s just made of elastic, after all) you can adjust the band in and retain a good fit and support. And if your body and underbust grow (you are growing a human inside of you, after all) you can adjust it out. If you want more room to expand or contract, some maternity bras have more than the usual 3 hook adjustment in the back for this very reason, which is pretty cool.

Another good feature to look for in a maternity bra is a style with a stretchy or flexible cup. That way it can accommodate your bust as it grows or fluctuates.  That may mean that a firm, molded bra may not be best if you want it to adjust with you as you grow. However, it’s up to you! Ferna is wearing a molded Calvin Klein Seductive Comfort bra in the images here. If you choose a firmer style, you just may need to swap out the size sooner rather than later.

I highly suggest trying some wire-free bras during pregnancy. Because your body is changing, a wire-free bra can adjust with your body without pinching. And if you carry your baby high, it can also avoid underwires digging into your bump. A wire-free bra could be a bralette, but chances are you’ll want more support than what a traditional bralette offers. The level of support is up to you, and may depend on your size and level of activity. If you want light support for around the house or for sleeping, for example, a bralette could be great. If you want more lift and support for work or working out, you’ll want something with more structure and design.

Remember, wearing a flexible cup, wire-free bra also means it’s easier to avoid digging underwires or discomfort due to mis-sizing yourself or to new and sudden growth. If you are working with a bra fitter on a regular basis (dreamland and ideal) then firm or underwire bras are cool because an expert can guide you. Even then, they can’t predict future growth. And if you can’t get in to see your fitter regularly, stretchy and wire-free are super helpful and accommodating.

And while you want to make sure the bra fits well on you now, you can also estimate up a bit. For example, if you are in between cup sizes, or both cup sizes fit well and one is just roomier, go for the size up. In most cases, your body will grow into the fuller size. Just don’t overestimate so much that you’re sacrificing a good fit now for what you hope will fit later.

Directly after giving birth your breasts will fill with milk, sometimes suddenly surging up several cup sizes. This is called engorgement. Your bust will also fluctuate during this time, quite a bit. I suggest buying nursing bras around week 30 which is the size your bust may go back to once you’re on a regular nursing or pumping schedule {more on that in an upcoming blog post}. But you’ll also want to estimate up and having a few stretchy bras on hand with room for growth for that first engorgement period. These can be nursing bras if you choose to try to nurse. Or they can be regular, flexible cup bras. Either way you’ll want to purchase something ahead of time to wear during those initial days since shopping with a newborn can be tricky!

What are (some of) the best maternity bras?

Below are examples of some maternity bras to try. There are SO many options out there, since most regular bras can also be worn during pregnancy if they are the right size and provide the level of support you’re looking for. The styles below are especially suited for maternity time, and are similar to styles I’ve fit onto many of my expectant clients or shared on TV. See what works best for you and report back!

Adjustable, Flexible or Stretchy Cup, Wire-Free Bra

Miel Nana Bra: This sister owned brand makes a bra that is a favorite of mine because it’s a soft, seamless, stretchy bra without an underwire (like a bralette) but it has an adjustable band and convertible straps. In addition, though it’s wire-free, it has a special knit design to provide some shape to your bust. The sizing on this style is very basic which can make it easier to navigate during size transitions like this. It’s best suited for petite to medium busts. I wear a 32DD in most bras and a M/L in the Nana. They also carry a Racerback style, and a Nana with removable pads.

Sugar Candy Crush by Cake – This wire-free bra is specifically designed for fuller busts, with S, M, L etc size chart starting at UK F and up to HH. The secret is inside, with stretchy cups (comfortable and works with you as your body grows) crafted with a special weave of soft bands of material to keep you lifted. I suggest the Heather version, linked in the title because of its sporty colors and adjustable J-hook to make it racerback, and they also have a more neutral version. And if you like it for later there is a nursing version with clips that would make a great sleep or engorgement nursing bra that you can purchase later on. {Psst! You may also want to try their Milk Bamboo Sleep & Nursing Bra, which is clip free so it’s great for maternity, and can pull down so you can use it for nursing. Because it’s stretchy, it’s especially great for engorgement right when the milk flow arrives and your bust fluctuates}.

Royce bras – This UK wire-free brand makes everyday maternity and nursing bras. They have a wide variety of styles and sizes, including the retro-style Charlotte which starts at a 28 band and goes up to a UK K cup. They also have styles with varying levels of molding, from the soft but thick Maisie, to the flexible and seamless Georgia. That bit of coverage can be great for concealing nipples, which can grow larger and darker during pregnancy if that’s a concern of yours.

Wire-Free, Lace Bralette

Montelle Cup-Sized Bralette: This bra sized bralette is a favorite of my own! Unlike other bralettes, it has the benefit of an adjustable band and convertible straps, as well as beautiful stretch lace with slight reinforcement and wire-free design. I wear mine in size 32D/E and it comes in cup sizes B/C, D/E, and even F/G! It’s a great (and pretty) transition bra. Available in several colors! {Psst! Try their Bust Support Chemise for a touch of stylish, wire-free support at night, when breasts can feel swollen and sore}.

Panache Andorra Wire-Free Bra: DD cups and up will love this wire-free bralette from UK brand, Panache. It mixes the style of a bralette with the support and fit that full busts may want (and your bust will be fuller than ever during pregnancy) with adjustable band and straps, and reinforced cups.

Fortnight Bras: This Toronto based brand was created by a bra fitter. She designs cup-sized bralettes with adjustable bands and straps up to a G cup. Her style is low key but stylish, and several options include longline coverage. That longline band is wider and can provide additional support while the materials remain soft with some stretch. I’m wearing the Vega style above, which the designer told me is popular with lots of different people, including during maternity AND nursing. Though it’s not designed as a nursing bra, the stretchy cups and front adjusting straps make it easy to full down to feed. It’s a bit pricy compared to some other styles here, but can potentially support you through many phases and sizes.

Hips and Curves: This plus-size, online lingerie retailer has a sexy collection of bras at Low to Moderate price ranges. This is great for those who don’t want to spend as much on these transition bras, and still want to feel sexy and elegant. That includes a lot of wire-free, lace bralettes as well as lace stretch cup, underwire bras. The majority of the styles here are more sexy than supportive, and you get to decide what level of support you want.

PS: these lace styles would be so pretty for a maternity shoot! Pair one with a pretty kimono or luxurious robe for some hurray!

Flexible Cup Bra with Underwire

Wacoal Halo Lace Bra: This classic bra is made of lightweight, smooth lace that easily stretches and supports. It’s available in an impressive range of US C to G cups, 32-40 bands, and many colors. This brand makes MANY styles to choose from, including lots of flexible cup bras with great support. Typically this brand is known for fitting snug and firmer than others, but this particular lace style has the most give while still keeping you lifted.

Simone Perele: This French brand wouldn’t be on most maternity bra lists because of the higher price points and pretty details (I’m not sure why we are trying to make maternity bras boring in the USA. We don’t have to!). I love helping expectant moms into this brand’s 3D spacer molding bras because the cup material is flexible, smooth, and shapely. This company also does a great job of mixing support, style, and softness. It’s one of the less stiff (but surprisingly supportive) underwire brands out there. And hey, you are a goddess and deserve to dress like one during your pregnancy.

Anita – This German brand has been around for 140+ years and makes bras that fit into just about every category. The styles they design to suit someone who is pregnant alone are staggering. If you’re looking for an underwire bra to wear during pregnancy, a favorite for maternity is the classic Twin Range Underwire Bra. Made for B-H cups, and 30-44 bands, this bra has a smooth, flexible cup. It also has wide, padded (but seamless and flat) straps for comfort. It’s a really great basic bra for anyone, but an especially good neutral bra during pregnancy.

Maternity & Nursing Combination

Many of the stretchy cup, wire-free bras on this list could potentially be used during nursing! And the styles below are specifically designed for both. Most use a no clasp, pull down design. Again, you may wear a different bra size or need a different level of support early in pregnancy vs. nursing, so it’s normal to need different sizes in the same bra. That being said, these styles are great for their dual purpose and might end up saving you some bucks! And the clasp-free designs are great for sleeping (no hardware digging in or clips popping open while you try to sleep before the next feeding time!)

  • Mayana Geneviere – this whole brand uses a patented clasp-free design that makes it ideal for maternity or nursing.
  • Bravado Ballet Bra – just one option because this brand is dedicated to maternity and nursing bras
  • Bella Materna Anytime Bra – this bra has six adjustable hooks in the back and a stretchy cup with removable pads
  • La Leche League Sleep Bra – this cotton blend, racerback style is not adjustable and good for light support

Want more? I shared some of my tips (and some of the styles here) on The Marilyn Denis Show up in Canada! If you’re up north, get the link to the replay and say hurray!

Stay tuned for my next blog post on Nursing Bras!

Your Turn: Are you pregnant or expecting? Or have you been? What bras do you find help you say hurray during this time? How has your bust or underbust changed? What level of support feels best? Share with us and ask me your questions in the comments!

Credits: These images are from the More Than My Numbers project, a special creation very dear to my heart that helps people learn to use numbers (like bra size, age, weight, salary, etc) as information, not a definition. Check it out! Photos by are by Laura of Own Your Sexy. Hair and makeup by Zuleika Acosta. The lovely storyteller is Ferna. Read her story!