Comfortable Maternity Workout Clothes for Every Trimester

Buying Guide

Here's your guide for how to find comfortable maternity workout clothes you can wear from prenatal through post-partum workouts.

Last updated: 19 October 2021
7 min read
What Maternity Workout Clothes Do I Need?

Your growing bump isn't the only physical change that comes with pregnancy. You have to contend with swollen hands and feet and heavier breasts too (just to name a few). But that doesn't mean you should settle for ill-fitting or uncomfortable workout clothes. Your body is already doing the extra work of creating a baby, so why let your activewear give it an even harder time?

Choosing comfortable maternity workout clothes can make a huge difference to how you feel during exercise. Most maternity activewear has stretchier fabrics and moisture-wicking materials, as well as functional designs for those who breastfeed.

That said, you don't necessarily have to shop in the maternity section to look for workout clothing. Despite claims that maternity clothing is true-to-fit pre-pregnancy sizes, it's hard to predict exactly how big your bump will get in the next few months or what will actually feel good, so it's best to try on clothing before purchasing.

"Or consider ordering a few different sizes online, and if the most comfortable option is a size number you never thought you'd wear, remind yourself that you are growing a human and you deserve to be comfortable", says Cassie Shortsleeve, a perinatal health coach and educator and the founder of Dear Sunday, an online platform for pregnant women and new mums.

You may also get a good fit by buying larger sizes of your usual workout clothes. "Sometimes maternity clothes are necessary, but other times, simply sizing up in regular clothes works too", Shortsleeve says.

To help you sweat comfortably (and in style) during your prenatal workouts, here's a guide to filling your wardrobe with essential maternity workout clothes and gear.

1. Look for Stretchy, High-Waist Leggings

Your baby bump is growing by the day, even if you don't immediately notice the changes, and you need leggings that'll accommodate it. So choose high-waisted maternity leggings with a stretchy fit that go over your pregnant belly, says Leah Keller, a certified personal trainer and founder of Every Mother.

"[High-waisted leggings] feel amazing generally, but especially while working out, because they provide a sense of lift and stabilisation", Keller says.

However, Keller cautions against getting into a habit of wearing the high-waisted leggings 24/7. "They can leave you with the impression that you have greater core strength and stability than you actually have", she says. "This false security can prompt some to skip cultivating core strength while pregnant".

Building your core strength is important for preventing back pain—a common issue during pregnancy—and preparing for childbirth.

When it comes to material, you generally want to choose workout clothes made from breathable, sweat-wicking materials, such as polyester and nylon. These fabrics allow you to stay cool, especially during pregnancy when your body is working harder.

"Go for soft textures", says Andrea Speir, a pre and postnatal fitness specialist and founder of Speir Pilates. "Light cotton feels great against stretched skin". I would avoid thick leggings, as they tend to drive a pregnant mum who's already feeling hot into the uncomfortable zone".

2. Invest in Compression Shorts

While yoga trousers might be your go-to workout bottoms, you'll also want to consider getting a pair of compression shorts. Shorts are ideal if you're doing intense exercise or working out in the heat and want to stay extra cool. Your legs may also feel less restricted doing certain exercises, as opposed to wearing trousers.

Wearing compression shorts can also help you manage the discomfort and swelling that come with vulvar varicosities, which are varicose veins that form on the outer surface of the vulva, Keller says.

"People don't tend to talk about vulvar varicosities, but they are fairly common during pregnancy and often resolve spontaneously after birth", Keller says. "Wearing compression shorts can help promote the return of blood flow while working out, standing, walking and even while sitting at a desk".

If you're experiencing vulvar varicosities, make sure you talk to your doctor or midwife.

3. Choose a Supportive Sports Bra

A comfortable maternity sports bra that provides support and full coverage for your growing breasts can make all the difference during your workouts. Generally speaking, most women don't feel comfortable with underwires in bras, so you'll likely want to avoid them in your maternity sports bras too.

While a snug fit can provide a bit of lift, you also don't want it to feel too tight, otherwise it can restrict your movement and may even cause pain. For this reason, consider buying a sports bra one or two sizes larger than what you usually wear, Shortsleeve says.

"Even if you don't have large breasts, many women notice a breast size increase in the first trimester and throughout the postpartum period, especially if you're breastfeeding", Shortsleeve says. "Sports bras that are too tight can contribute to clogged ducts while breastfeeding".

If you're planning to breastfeed, Keller recommends sports bras that double as nursing bras. However, it can be challenging to find a sports bra that perfectly serves both purposes because of the differences in fabric needs, she says.

"I've personally found that the technical aspects of these different types of garments can undermine each other", Keller says. "It's an engineering feat to create a truly supportive and effective sports bra that is also comfortable and accessible for nursing or pumping".

So if you're not able to find a sports bra that strikes the right balance for you, Keller recommends buying separate bras for working out and breastfeeding and/or pumping.

In terms of design, Speir recommends keeping things simple. "Look for wide straps and coverage on the sides. As your chest grows, you'll want to get full coverage so you don't have to worry about a faux pas happening during your workout".

Some regular sports bras can also make great maternity workout bras, so you don't necessarily need to shell out for one marketed as a maternity sports bra. Plus, you'll probably want to stretch their use into the postpartum period, so it's worth investing in a sports bra you know you'll use beyond pregnancy. If you find one you really love, both Shortsleeve and Keller suggest buying two or three.

"Think about your lifestyle when buying a sports bra for motherhood", Shortsleeve says. "If you're paying a lot more just to have the bra be a nursing bra, and you won't use that feature, is it worth it? Maybe there's a similar bra with the same amount of support that's cheaper and would do the trick. Everyone is different".

4. Shop for Long and Stretchy Training Tops

As your belly grows, you'll want tanks and shirts that are longer in length and have a stretchy fit to go over your bump. Also consider tanks with a snug fit, as they can provide some added support the same way wearing a belly band does, Shortsleeve says.

Nike (M) maternity tank, for example, has a 4-way stretch, a longer cut to provide full coverage and a flattering fit you can rock through postpartum.

And just like leggings, look for training tops and sports bras made from sweat-wicking technology to keep you cool when your workouts get heated.

5. Go for Training Shoes With Extra Arch Support

Due to the increase in blood and other fluids your body is producing during pregnancy, you may notice swelling in your ankles and feet. That may mean your workout shoes no longer fit or offer as much support as you need.

In fact, some expecting mothers experience foot growth of half to a full size during pregnancy, according to Keller. Sizing up your favourite sneakers can help, Shortsleeve says.

Pregnancy can also cause foot issues like plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes heel pain, due to the pressure of the added baby weight. You may also experience flat feet or fallen arches, because your body releases a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy, which causes the ligaments in your body to stretch.

"Well-designed, supportive shoes are important for safety", Keller says. "They help prevent falls as your ankles tend to get wobbly and your centre of gravity shifts". They can also keep you moving so you build the necessary strength and stamina for birth, she says.

And pair your shoes with some moisture-wicking socks, Shortsleeve says. Moisture-wicking material is key given all of the skin changes—both dryness and sweating—that many pregnant women experience.

Originally published: 18 October 2021

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