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How to Choose and Use Shapewear

Get the Right Fit continued...

Some stars, such as actress Octavia Spencer and singer Adele, admit to layering pieces of shapewear for special occasions.

"I've done two or three layers for an appearance or commercial," Banks-Coloma says. "Obviously it isn't comfortable, but it can be effective."

That trend may be better left in Hollywood, Avitzur says. "Special events are meant to be enjoyed, and that's hard to do if your garments are squeezing you like a vise." Layering shapewear makes compressing nerves or organs more likely, she says.

Not Only for Special Occasions

You can wear shapewear to work, as long as it's not bothering you. "The benefit," Joy says, "is that it can help you feel more confident and it can boost your self-esteem."

If you wear shapewear every day, pay close attention to how comfortable you are. "If you're afraid to go to the bathroom because your shapewear is difficult to remove, you might be putting yourself at risk of a UTI [urinary tract infection]," Avitzur says.

If you are prone to bladder infections, yeast infections, or GI symptoms like reflux, wearing shapewear every day may not be such a good idea, Avitzur says.

Pregnancy and Shapewear

If you're pregnant, you might want to check with your doctor about whether you can use special maternity shapewear. It may actually help you feel better, says ob-gyn Laura E. Riley, MD, medical director of Labor and Delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of You and Your Baby: Pregnancy.

"Maternity shapewear is fine for women to wear daily if they are comfortable," Riley says. "It should help for women with varicose veins, which can be uncomfortable when standing, and it should provide support to lift the uterus off the cervix and ease pain [if the pelvis becomes misaligned]."

As a neurologist, Avitzur says "pregnant women are already at risk for compressing a nerve in the abdomen if their belly is large."

If you do wear shapewear while expecting, make sure getting it on and off isn't such a struggle that you put off urinating, as that can set you up for urinary tract infections.

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