8 Practical Things to Know About Choosing the Right Bra for Pregnancy


Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here’s everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

As soon as they start showing even a little, most Moms-to-be get excited about a brand new wardrobe with cute maternity dresses. However, even the prettiest dress will do nothing for your figure if you don’t have the right foundation – which in this case is the right bra for pregnancy!

A woman’s body changes significantly during pregnancy, mainly due to the increase in the levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone. It’s not just the abdomen that gets bigger – the joints and muscles become more relaxed, blood volume increases, pigmentation and stretch marks appear on the skin and the breasts get bigger.

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It is important to make small changes in your lifestyle to accommodate these changes, like replacing your current bra with the right bra for pregnancy. It may sound overwhelming and confusing, but it is possible! Let’s start by learning how breasts change across the months of pregnancy and after that.

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

How Breasts change during Pregnancy

For many women, changes in their breasts are often felt even before a positive pregnancy test. This is why the first trimester sees symptoms like a feeling of fullness or tenderness in the breasts, similar to PMS symptoms. The soreness in the breasts may extend to the armpit area. The increase in blood volume causes the veins in the breasts to become more visible.

Besides these, the nipples may also become larger and more sensitive. The areola may darken and may show the appearance of small bumps called Montgomery tubercles.

In the second trimester, the breasts become visibly larger and will continue feeling heavy as the milk ducts develop. The rib cage also starts to expand expands to make room for the internal organs to be moved about to accommodate the growing fetus.

The third trimester sees your breasts grow significantly in size, and you may also notice stretch marks on their sides. Some women experience itching due to the stretching skin on the breasts. Heavy breasts can be a cause of discomfort now, especially while sleeping and you may also notice some leakage of breast milk or colostrum.

The fourth trimester isn’t exactly a part of pregnancy but indicates the time period from childbirth till the time the baby is 3 months old. This is the time it usually takes for the mother’s breasts to settle into a demand and supply system as far as breast milk is concerned. During the fourth trimester, the breasts get larger quickly, as the milk comes in and the breasts begin producing more milk for the baby.

Why you Need a Special Bra for Pregnancy

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

Okay, now we know how the breasts change during pregnancy, but the question is: does this mean that you need a special bra? Why not use your regular bras throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Even if you get a larger size of your usual bra, it won’t work because it is simply not built to deal with the changes the breasts undergo through pregnancy. Regular bras have a fixed band size which don’t accommodate for the expanding rib cage, and they may also cause painful conditions like mastitis, where the milk ducts get blocked and infected. They are also rather inconvenient when it comes to breastfeeding your baby.

Here are a few more benefits of getting special bras for pregnancy:

  1. They reduce the sagging and stretching of breast tissue
  2. Properly designed pregnancy bras protect the nipples and areola
  3. Maternity bras can relieve the backache and discomfort caused due to heavy breasts
  4. They distribute weight equally across the shoulders, improving posture and balance
  5. Most pregnancy bras are built to adjust to your breast size and allow space for expansion as the breasts get bigger
  6. Bras with nursing support offer flaps that can be lowered to make the nipple accessible to baby

If you’re wondering about skipping a bra altogether during pregnancy, you may want to rethink that decision. Breasts don’t have any muscles, which means that the sagging is usually permanent and cannot be reversed. Choosing the right bra for pregnancy that offers the right amount of support and comfort is the only way to prevent this and keep your breasts looking and feeling good.

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

1. Type

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

Before you set out to choose the right bra for pregnancy, it is important to know the different types of bras out there.

Regular bras: These are the bras you wear on a regular basis, available in a multitude of styles and colors. These generally have single layer cups, may be wired or padded and are designed for breasts of all sizes. These bras often have seams and stitching along the cups and bands, and are generally quite restrictive when it comes to fit.

Maternity bras: Maternity bras are specifically designed for use during pregnancy. These bras are a more fine tuned version of regular bras, with multi layered cups, wider straps and adjustable bands. Maternity bras often have room for expansion as they are supposed to offer comfort to heavier and tender-feeling breasts. These bras are meant to be worn before the baby arrives and often don’t have a facility for breastfeeding.

Nursing bras: Nursing bras offer the same support and comfort as maternity bras, but they have the extra feature of drop down cups which offer access to the breast for nursing. Since the breasts will be at their heaviest when the milk comes in, these bras have strong support both for the cup and band. The cups are also lined with extra fabric, since breasts can leak at this point. Nursing bras don’t just make breastfeeding easier, they also prevent blocked milk ducts or infections like mastitis, along with shoulder and neck pain.

Which one to choose? Now that you know the difference between all the bra types, it’s time to know which one’s right for you. Ideally, you’d wear the maternity bra during the course of your pregnancy, and switch to a nursing bra when the baby is born. However, this can prove to be wasteful, not to mention expensive, since these custom bras cost more than regular bras.

Nowadays, most expecting mothers prefer to get just one set of bras that’ll take them from pregnancy to nursing, without having to shop in between. This helps get the most use out of these bras, and it makes it easier for to get the best quality you can afford.

Obviously, in this case you’ll be choosing a nursing bra as your choice for the right bra for pregnancy. Due to this trend, many manufacturers are now making nursing bras that can also work as a maternity bra, designed to accommodate the growing breast size. If you don’t want to do this, you can get pregnancy bras for some time and then switch to a nursing bra later. Read on to know when exactly to make the switch.

2. Trimester

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

If you plan to use both maternity and nursing bras, it can be confusing knowing when to make the switch. The breasts grow steadily for the first two trimesters, and usually settles by the third trimester. This means that by the third trimester, your breast size will probably have increased by up to 3 cup sizes.

A good way of knowing when to change your bra is to listen to your body. As soon as your breasts start to feel heavy and uncomfortable in your current bra, it’s time for a change. The discomfort can be in the form of a too-tight band, straps that dig into your shoulders, or a restrictive underwire. This is the time to get fitted for a good maternity bra that has room for your breasts to grow and for your rib cage to expand. A set of good quality maternity bras at this stage should be good enough till the beginning of the third trimester.

By around 8 months of pregnancy, your rib cage will have expanded to its maximum and your breasts are reaching their largest size. This is the right time to get measured for a nursing bra that has additional support for your heavy breasts and soft fabric for sensitive nipples. These bras can also contain any minor milk leaks that some women experience in the final weeks of pregnancy.

By the end of the fourth trimester, your baby will have settled into a feeding routine, and the breasts will settle into a proper demand-supply schedule. A good nursing bra will work well even though the breasts are a little smaller than earlier, since high quality elastic will not lose its stretch.

3. Size

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

As your baby grows, your breast size also changes throughout pregnancy, which means its important to stay up to date with your measurements. Measuring at frequent intervals will ensure you’re always wearing a well-fitting bra that’s giving you the support you need.

If your local department store does not have a bra-fitting service, you can measure yourself at home. There are two measurements you’ll need to take to determine the two components of bra size – the band size and cup size. You’ll have noticed that bra sizes come in a combination of numbers and letters, like 34 C. Here, 34 is the band size and C refers to the cup size.

To measure the band size: Wear your most comfortable regular bra and stand in front of a large mirror that enables you to see till your waist. Stand straight with shoulders relaxed and breathe normally. Take your measuring tape and wrap it around your rib cage where the bra band sits. The tape should be parallel to the floor. Note the measurement in inches, rounding off to the next even number. So if you measure 35″, round it off to 36. This is your band size.

To measure the cup size: Standing in the same position, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your breasts, still breathing normally. The tape shouldn’t be too tight, but shouldn’t be falling off either. Note the measurement in inches, rounding it off to the next number. This is your bust measurement.

To calculate the bra size: Subtract the band size from the bust measurement and you’ll get the cup number. See which alphabet this number corresponds to, for instance, number 2 corresponds to B, 3 corresponds to C etc. This alphabet is your band size.

Here’s an example: Your band measurement is 36” and your bust measurement is 40″. The difference between this is 4, which corresponds to the alphabet D. So this means that your bra size is 36 D. Here is a table that gives a quick guide to various bra sizes based on the measurements you’ve taken.

Bust Measurement minus Band Size
US Cup Size EU Cup Size UK Cup Size
less than 1″ AA AA AA
1″ A A A
2″ B B B
3″ C C C
4″ D D D
5″ DD/E E DD
6″ DDD/F F E
10″ J J GG
11″ K H
12″ L HH
13″ M J
14″ N JJ
15″ K

When measuring the right bra for pregnancy, it is recommended to start by adding a cup size and a band size to your pre-pregnancy size. For instance, if you were wearing a 32 C, go with a 34 D bra.

4. Fit

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

The main requirement from the fit of the right pregnancy bra is ample support. As the breasts get bigger, they also get heavier, and regular bras simply won’t cut it, as they are not designed for this purpose. The right pregnancy bra will have a strong construction, good design and quality materials. Here are a few things to look out for when choosing the right pregnancy bra.

Straps: Most regular bras have thin or narrow straps, which aren’t enough to support the weight of your newly heavy breasts. A good maternity bra should have wide shoulder straps that sit comfortably on the shoulders and help distribute the weight of the breasts evenly. The straps shouldn’t dig into the shoulders or cause red marks. If your cup size is DD or higher, get bras with straps that are at least an inch wide.

Band: The band is the most important component of a bra, since this is what actually holds up the breasts. The band should be broad and sturdy with at least four rows of hooks. It should be adjustable and made of high quality elastic to accommodate the expansion of the rib cage. If it feels restrictive, go up a size. If the band rides up your back, go down a band size and up a cup size.

Cups: The cups of your maternity bra should provide full coverage, something often missing from regular bras. The cup should cover the entire breast, without any bulges or folds in any part of the cup. Ideally, you should be able to fit your open hand inside the cup. Cups with support panels help keep the breasts in the right position throughout. The nipples should be pointing straight ahead, and not downward or upward.

Wire: Some women enjoy wearing an underwired bra regularly, but this can change during pregnancy. The growing breasts can feel uncomfortable inside restrictive cups. Continuing to wear a wired bra during pregnancy may cause the breasts to get misshapen or clog the milk ducts. Wires can also dig into the skin, and they are not designed for a growing rib cage. You’re likely to find that you can’t tolerate wired bras by the end of the first trimester.

Checking the fit: When trying on the bra, check each of the components mentioned above. Move while wearing the bra to ensure there is little to no bounce. Opt for bras made of stretchable fabric so they grow with your breasts. The right pregnancy bra will not leave any marks on any part of your body or feel tight in any way.

5. Comfort

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

When you’re pregnant, your prime consideration will be comfort. With morning sickness, frequent peeing and baby kicks, the last thing you should be worrying about is how comfortable your bra is! You can prevent any discomfort by checking a few things when buying the right bra for pregnancy.

As mentioned earlier, avoid wired bras during pregnancy, since they cannot expand with your growing breasts. Wired bras can also cause blocked milk ducts that can be painful. The next thing to consider is the fabric. Get bras made in a light, breathable fabric like cotton, and avoid synthetic fabrics that trap sweat. Bras with more elastane adjust better to the changing size of breasts. Some bras have additional features like anti-bacterial, sweat-wicking and odor control.

The cups should be seam free so there are no seams or stitches irritating the nipples. Soft fabrics will also be more comfortable for nipples that become too sensitive during pregnancy. It’s best to avoid raw lace which could chafe against the skin. Make sure the bra’s structure is designed in a way that makes it easy to put on. You may also find that front-opening bras are easier to wear than ones with hooks on the back.

The right bra for pregnancy should feel comfortable during all kinds of movements – sitting, standing, bending or twisting. There should not be any kind of pinching or bunching anywhere, and the straps shouldn’t be sliding off or digging in. If you experience any of these, try another size or go for a different design altogether.

6. Style

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

With all the focus on fit and comfort, you may end up thinking that the right bra for pregnancy needs to be an ugly, utilitarian piece of clothing. However, with so many brands making maternity bras and nursing bras, there is quite a variety of well made and beautiful bras to choose from. Contrary to what most people think, it is possible to have style and function!

You can choose any color or pattern when choosing your bras, but make sure that it is the right bra for pregnancy in terms of fit, support, size and comfort. You can get bras that have lace overlays, so that the lace is not directly rubbing against or chafing your skin. Little bows or flowers add a cuteness factor without affecting comfort.

Pretty bras that are also well made are likely to be more expensive, but they’re usually worth the price, especially if you’ll be wearing them all through your pregnancy and nursing journey. Matching your bras with your panties will also make you feel more stylish.

7. Purpose

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

These days, bra companies are waking up to the varied needs of modern pregnant woman, which means that no matter what you’re doing, you’ll find the right bra for pregnancy. For instance, many expecting mothers find it hard to sleep comfortably with a bulging belly and heavy breasts, and a sleep bra makes this easier. Sleep bras provide support, but are so comfortable that it feels like going bra-free.

Today’s Moms are not skipping their workouts even during pregnancy and this leads to the requirement of a good sports bra. A regular sports bra will not provide the support pregnant breasts need, so a maternity sports bra is essential. These bras offer excellent support without restricting the breasts and allowing freedom of movement.

You’ll find sleep bras and sports bras with flaps that aid breastfeeding, so you can continue to use these for the fourth trimester too, till your breasts settle down with respect to their size. If you plan to pump, you’ll also find special pumping bras that are constructed in a manner that’s different from regular bras. These wrap around the chest and have openings for the pump. If buying a pumping bra, be sure to wait till you’re at least 36 weeks to get measured.

8. Number

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

Now that you know about the different types of bras and the variations available, the next question is this: how many maternity bras do you need? The rule of thumb is to have at least three pregnancy bras and three nursing bras. This should help you last through your wash and wear cycles.

The right bra for pregnancy can be expensive, so it’s best to go for quality rather than quantity when it comes to maternity bras, and if they’re good quality, they’ll last for as long as you need them. Another trick you can try is to get bra extender. This is a strip of elastic which can add some extra length to your band. Since the rib cage expands during pregnancy, this is a great way to increase the life of your current bra.

Caring for your Maternity Bra

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

So you’ve found the right bra for pregnancy that’s perfect for your needs, and you’ve spent a bit on a good quality product. To make sure your gorgeous bras last long, you need to take good care of them. The first thing to know is the right way to wear the bra. Bend forward a little, and let your breasts fall into the bra cups. Put the hook on the most comfortable setting and then slip on the straps. You can look in a mirror to ensure that the bra is sitting properly on your chest. The band should be parallel to the floor.

Most good quality pregnancy bras are made of soft, delicate fabrics, which makes them better suited to hand washing. After washing, let them drip dry – a dryer can destroy the bra or cause it to shrink. Use a gentle, allergy-free detergent to wash your bra so it doesn’t irritate your skin.

It is normal to leak during the final weeks before delivery as well as during the fourth trimester. You can protect your bras by using nursing pads inside the bra to absorb any leaks. You can get disposable or washable nursing pads – choose what works for you.

Ideally, it’s best to get measured and fitted for the right bra for pregnancy at a department store, but it is understandable that you may want to just stay home and order online. If doing so, make sure the website allows a full refund on returns or a fair exchange policy. Check the size charts carefully – bra sizes may vary slightly from brand to brand. Reading the reviews will also help you make the right decision.

Looking for the right bra for pregnancy? Here's everything you need to know about choosing the right bra for the ultimate comfort & function!

FAQ about Choosing the Right Bra for Pregnancy:

1. Do I need a special bra for pregnancy?

A: The breasts change throughout pregnancy and even after delivery, so you’ll need a special bra for this stage.

2. Can I just get a regular bra in a larger size?

A: Regular bras are not built to support the weight and variations of pregnant breasts, so they won’t offer adequate support.

3. When is the best time to get measured for a pregnancy bra?

A: Whenever you start feeling uncomfortable in your current bra is when you should get fitted for a pregnancy bra.

4. Can I wear underwired bras during pregnancy?

A: It is not recommended to wear underwired bras while pregnant since the wires can constrict the breasts and block milk ducts.

5. Are pregnancy bras a waste of money?

A: Pregnancy bras can offer your breasts the support that regular bras can’t. What’s more, all you need are three good quality bras which will last for as long as you need them.

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