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Pregnancy and Bras: What to Know

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 09, 2022

During pregnancy, your breasts start to change as your milk comes in. They may begin to enlarge, and your pre-pregnancy bras will feel tight and uncomfortable. Tight bras can put too much pressure on your breasts, making them sore or even plugging ducts

What to Know About Maternity Bras

In the early months of your pregnancy, bras with wiring and firm cups can cause blocked ducts and mastitis. Therefore, it’s important to wear comfortable bras in the later months of pregnancy and early months of breastfeeding

Maternity bras are different from nursing bras. Maternity bras are designed for women who are expecting. They offer more support for your growing breasts. The straps are also more padded and comfortable to ease the pain you may experience while your body changes. The cups are also more pliable, changing to fit your body as your pregnancy progresses. 

Nursing bras go a step further and provide the comfort of maternity bras, along with a removable cup. This allows easy access for your nursing baby. Near the end of pregnancy, most women switch to nursing bras to prepare for their baby. 

What Are the Best Bras for Pregnancy?

Shopping for maternity bras may not be as easy as finding nursing bras, but investing in a few is important. Mainstream retailers likely won't have the right maternity bra for you, so shopping at a maternity store will be your best bet. The employees there are able to help you find the perfect bra for you. 

Additionally, you'll want to have multiple bras. Keeping a few on hand will help keep you comfortable and keep you from having to wash them every week. 

A maternity bra with breathable fabric is a good idea. Some women get more sweaty under or between their breasts, especially during pregnancy. Breathable fabrics, though, will help keep you cooler during pregnancy. Fabrics like cotton and silk are more breathable than polyester. 

Supportive bras for pregnancy. When you are getting fitted for the perfect size maternity bra, there are some things you should look for: 

  • An adjustable fit
  • Supportive bras to cut down on stretch marks
  • Comfortable bras with straps that lay flat
  • A wire-free maternity bra

By choosing a comfortable maternity bra, you're taking stress and pain off your back and breasts. Bras with wide straps will help support the weight of your bust and distribute the weight across the shoulders. This helps with back and shoulder pain. 

If you want to save some money, you can find maternity bras that double as nursing bras later. 

How Does a Bra for Pregnancy Help?

As your belly grows, so do your breasts. Your chest will get larger as early as six weeks into your pregnancy. While some say their breasts don't start growing until their third trimester, every body is different.

Moreover, while your breasts are growing, your levels of progesterone and milk ducts are also increasing. Your ribcage will also start to expand to make room for your baby. This will mean you'll need to go up a cup size or two during pregnancy.

Getting a comfortable bra that fits and changes with you will help support your breasts and back. Good maternity bras will stretch and accommodate your growing bust.

By 16 weeks, your breasts prepare for lactation and go through many changes. This is a great time to invest in a maternity bra. As your breasts change, you don’t want to put too much pressure on them with an ill-fitting bra.   

As your breasts change and become itchy, with larger, darker areolas and leaking nipples, you deserve a bra that makes you feel good. Not all maternity bras are frumpy. You can find many stylish modern maternity bras and matching maternity pants. 

How Do Breasts Change During Pregnancy?

Your breasts go through changes during pregnancy. This is due to your hormone levels increasing to prepare for your baby. With all these extra hormones, you may notice: 

  • Tenderness in your nipples and breasts
  • An increase in breast size
  • A change in the color and size of your nipples and areolas
  • Bigger and more noticeable Montgomery glands

By the 16th week, your breasts can produce milk. You may notice small amounts of fluid leaking from your breasts. This is a straw-colored fluid called colostrum. You can put breast pads in your maternity bras if this leakage becomes noticeable. 

Near the end of your pregnancy, your nipples and breasts become larger. This is due to your milk-producing cells getting bigger. You may notice more pain and discomfort in your breasts during this time. A proper maternity bra, though, can help alleviate some of these feelings. With the right bra, you can even sleep in it if it's comfortable.

When to Change Bras During Pregnancy

Your bra size will be affected by how fast your breasts grow, and your ribcage will start expanding to make room for your baby. 

It's not abnormal to replace your bras multiple times during pregnancy as your breasts get larger. In fact, it's a good idea to get remeasured closer to your due date so you can find nursing bras that fit well. You won't want to mess with an ill-fitting bra when you're nursing. 

What Kind of Bras Should You Wear During Pregnancy?

If your bra leaves marks on your skin, it's too tight. That's when you should start shopping for a maternity bra. Your body will keep growing and changing throughout your pregnancy, so you might need a few maternity bras in a few different sizes. 

During the day. You should wear a bra that gives you the right support without digging into your skin. Padded shoulder straps can help. Cotton bras are also more comfortable during pregnancy. 

At night. You can try out sleep bras if you need some added support at night. Sleep maternity bras are softer, lighter bras. Cotton is a good fabric that remains light and breathable.

 You'll need a bra with wide straps for your growing belly and breasts. You can try a supportive sports bra that takes off some of the weight and pressure of your growing breasts. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

La Leche League International: “Bras.”

Johnson Memorial Health: “A Guide to Finding the Perfect Maternity Bra.”

KidsHealth: “10 Things That Might Surprise You About Being Pregnant.”

Mayo Clinic: “2nd trimester pregnancy: What to expect.”

NCT: “Maternity bras and nursing bras: what you need to know.”

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby: “Maternity clothes.”

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