Buying maternity bras

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So you’ve made the decision to wear a maternity bra and now it’s time to go shopping.

Where to buy a maternity bra?

Maternity bras are available at most department stores and lingerie shops, which usually also provide a free fitting service. You can also purchase maternity bras through specialist suppliers or mail order, though you may have trouble knowing whether the bra fits properly if you use mail order. The Australian Breastfeeding Association offers a fitting service for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

How many maternity bras to buy

Most women need 2 or 3 maternity bras. During pregnancy and breastfeeding the breasts often leak milk and thus maternity bras need to be changed more often than normal bras.

What to look for in a maternity bra

Maternity bras come in many shapes and sizes and it can be difficult to know what to look for. Every woman is a different size and shape and thus the right maternity bra will be different for every woman, but there are some things that all women should look for in their maternity bras.

A good fit

Any good maternity bra should fit well. That is, it should not be too big or too small. It’s a good idea to have your bra fitted professionally to ensure it fits properly and many bra shops provide free fitting services for their customers. Points to remember when deciding if a maternity bra fits properly include:

  • The bra should not be too big or too small. If the bra is too loose or too tight, try a different size or style;
  • It should be comfortable and support your breasts;
  • Your breasts should completely fill the bra cups, but not bulge out of the cups (at the top, bottom or sides);
  • The bra strap should fit comfortably around your chest and back. Make sure it is not digging into the skin and that the front and back are at the same level on your torso;
  • The shoulder straps should support the weight of your breasts;
  • The shoulder straps should fit tightly enough that they stay in place when you move your body, but not so tightly that they dig into your skin;
  • Never buy a bra to ‘grow into’. A bra that is too big will not provide the support your breasts need. If you are concerned that your breasts are still growing, it might be better to wait a few weeks. Some women need to change bras a couple of times during pregnancy;
  • Adjustable fasteners provide more flexibility for your changing breasts during pregnancy. Bras which clasp at the back are usually adjustable (have several fastening positions), whereas those which clasp at the front usually have only a single fastener. Back clasping maternity bras are therefore recommended.

Underwire or not?

If you have heard that underwire bras are not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may be wondering if it’s true and if so, why. Underwire bras are very supportive but the wires in them are very rigid – they cannot change shape to accommodate changes in the size and shape of breasts. Even when your breasts reach their final size (at about 16 weeks pregnant), they may change size slightly in the course of each day, depending on how much milk is being produced. In late pregnancy they may become swollen because of retained fluid.

Although the change in breast size is small, the rigid wires in underwire bras are inflexible and cannot change shape to accommodate even small changes in the size of your breasts. The wires may put pressure on your breasts and this may cause problems like blocked milk ducts or mastitis. It’s for these reasons that some people recommend pregnant women don’t wear underwire bras during pregnancy, but there is no evidence to show that women who do wear them have an increased risk of blocked milk ducts or other breast problems. Not wearing underwire is simply a measure you may want to take as a precaution, or because a soft cup bra is more comfortable.

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If you love underwire bras but have concerns about blocked milk ducts, you may like to try a bra with low gauge wire which is flexible enough to change shape with your breasts as they swell and shrink during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Low gauge, flexible underwire maternity bras are available in Australia. Whatever bra you choose, the most important consideration is a good fit. If you go for underwire, make sure they do not dig into your breast – if they do, you need a different size bra.

Cup type

Maternity nursing bras have cups which clip open and closed to make breastfeeding a bit easier. If you are planning to breastfeed it is likely that the maternity bra you wear during pregnancy will also be the bra you wear while breastfeeding your newborn, so it’s good to think about what sort of cups will suit you best. Some clip open from the shoulder, whereas others clip open from the front, and you may find that one or the other style suits you better. Have a go at opening and closing the cup when you are fitting your bra to see if it works for you.

There are also different types of openings. On some maternity bras the entire cup folds down when it is unclipped and these are generally the best type to go for. Cups in which only a tiny trapdoor-like section folds back can restrict the breasts and put unnecessary pressure on them.

Wide bands and straps

Maternity bras with wide shoulder straps and a thick band below the cups provide the best support.


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Date Created: September 16, 2013 Date Modified: July 3, 2018