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Maternity bras – choosing the right maternity bra

From the moment of conception, a woman’s body begins to change as it prepares for pregnancy.

In fact, changes in the breasts can occur in the first week or two, often giving a woman the first definite sign that she is expecting.

Pregnancy hormones circulating in blood can trigger glandular development and increased blood supply, which can result in a feeling of fullness and tenderness on the top and sides of the breast.

During pregnancy your breasts continue to grow and may be tender as the milk glands expand in preparation for possible nursing.

This doesn’t however mean simply moving into a larger-sized standard bra in a style that you have worn pre-pregnancy.

Maternity bras are specifically designed to accommodate changes in your breasts providing breast and diaphragm support during pregnancy. And when baby is born and ready for feeding, maternity bras have specially designed drop feeding cups.

You should be fitted for a maternity bra as soon as there is a noticeable increase in the size of your bust. As a general rule this occurs around the third to fourth month of pregnancy.

How does a maternity bra differ from a standard bra?

Although there are many different styles of maternity bras available, the diagram on the right shows you the key design features that differentiate a maternity bra from a standard bra.

How do I know if I have the correct fitting?

The easiest way to know if you have the correct fitting bra is to have it fitted by a salesperson. You’ll want to be fitted for a maternity bra when your breasts start changing during pregnancy – generally before the 16-week mark. Depending on bust development, you could have the fitting checked around 7 months. And if you feel the bra is restrictive in anyway you should have your fitting checked immediately.

Can I wear an underwire bra during pregnancy?

Yes and no. It is recommended that during pregnancy and breastfeeding you do not wear a bra with a rigid underwire. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association this is due to all the frequent changes in your breast shape. A rigid underwire can put pressure on the breast when it is fuller, which could lead to blocked milk ducts and/or mastitis. For women who prefer the support of underwire bras there are flexible low-gauge wire support maternity bras on the market.

Can I wear my maternity bra while sleeping?

Up to you. You can wear the bra while sleeping if you feel more comfortable doing so. When you’re breastfeeding you might find it useful during night feeds as it can hold breast pads in place and contain any leaks. If you’re more comfortable without it, by all means, do what feels right for you.

How many bras will I need?

During pregnancy, you might need at the least have two maternity bras. During breastfeeding stages you may want to purchase a third or fourth bra. Breastfeeding can be a leaky business at first so bras will need to be washed often.

How long should I wear my maternity bra for following delivery?

For approximately six weeks following the birth of your baby, you will still need the support for your breasts, shoulders, neck and back of a maternity bra, even if you do not continue breastfeeding during this six-week period. If you are breastfeeding, you will probably want to wear a maternity bra until you have weaned your baby off the breast.

Should I have another bra fitting after pregnancy and breastfeeding?

Although the glands will return to their pre-pregnant state, the breasts themselves may not have the fullness they had before. This is because the fat which was displaced by the expansion of the mammary tissue is never replaced in quite the same way. Following your pregnancy and breastfeeding you can have another fitting to ensure you are in the right size bra.

Image credit: Triumph
Image credit: phbcz / 123RF

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4 Comments so far -
  • Janette says:

    “It is recommended that during pregnancy you do not wear an underwire bra. A soft cup is less restrictive through the underbust and will allow for growth. They provide as much support as an underwire bra.”

    While most of the article is helpful, this particular point is absolute tosh – it has no basis whatsoever. Where is the evidence/explanation? Perhaps aside from the fact that, unlike other brands (Royce, Anita, etc), Triumph doesn’t offer an underwire maternity bra model. This is misinformation. For many women with a very large bust (e.g. JJ cup), going without an underwire isn’t an option – to imply it is dangerous is just irresponsible. In some instances, SOME women find them irritating and/or that the underwire ‘puts pressure on milk ducts’; but not everyone.

    If you feel more comfortable in an underwire maternity bra – go for it. It might be a crucial factor in making the next six plus months of breastfeeding bearable.

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