Maternity Underwear

Maternity underwear can be stylish and functional

As your body grows with pregnancy, you'll find that your selection of practical underwear shrinks. A rounder belly, more sensitive breasts and wider hips and thighs mean that your delicate thongs and lacy bras have moved to the back of the drawer. By the time your belly arrives, you're on the lookout for more comfort, and that means shopping for some maternity underwear.

Maternity bras, hosiery and other underwear are built with support and relief in mind. That is, you have more curves and weight to support as your belly and breasts grow, and the common aches and pains of pregnancy demand clever designs to relieve pressure. Find out what to look for in maternity underwear, when to buy it and how you can still feel sexy on your way to motherhood.

Why Good Maternity Bras and Pantyhose are Important

You may be tempted to keep wearing your regular bras and tights well into your second or third trimester, but there are some excellent reasons to begin looking for both earlier in pregnancy. To begin, your breasts are one of the first sites of change, and they don't just get bigger; breasts grow more sensitive, heavier and generally more cumbersome as early as a few weeks in. Without a properly fitted bra (one that respects your rib cage dimensions as well as cup size), breast tenderness can be downright painful by the end of the day. Do your body a favor and invest in a maternity bra for each phase of pregnancy, as you'll need more room and wider, softer straps to keep your bust supported and protected as you move through your nine months.

As for pantyhose, the main change is in the top band: traditional panty hose often features a "control top" panel that's meant to smooth out any bulges in your abdomen. Once your baby bump arrives, this panel can cause you considerable discomfort, so opt for maternity pantyhose with a larger front panel to cover your belly instead of one that cuts across your abdomen. Some women prefer to wear low-riding tights and instead get some support for their abdomen in the form of a maternity girdle, but you may prefer something a little less restraining.

If you're after the sheer look, the waistband will probably be very thin and stretchy and reach up to your ribs. If you want something a bit more supportive, check out a brand like Assets, which features a strip of firmer fabric right under the belly to support your bump instead of compressing it. These are probably the best choice for formal maternity wear, though they may be a bit heavy for more casual outfits.

Maternity Lingerie to Celebrate Your Form

Maternity panties, nursing bras and compression stockings are all very useful, but you don't have to give up on youthful and sexy underwear altogether. Maternity lingerie designers like HOTmilk and Cake Lingerie have focused on elegance and attention to detail instead of basic functionality when it comes to maternity underwear. That's not to say it isn't functional: with fuller coverage, soft support and clever cuts, the lingerie accentuates your curves while it supports them comfortably. If you're feeling particularly bloated and uninspired, some new, well-designed pregnancy lingerie should restore a feeling of femininity.

Although lace and mesh are some of the sexiest lingerie fabrics, they offer very little support, and in pregnancy that can leave you feeling less sexy than ever. Instead, a satin base and more decorative fabric on top or as ornamental edging will give you the best of both worlds: good support and sexy effect.