Your life doesn’t stop when you’re pregnant, and neither should your workouts. Once you get over the initial exhausted, morning-sickness hump and roll into the high-energy second trimester, there are tons of excellent reasons to hit the gym or pool. The US Department of Health & Human Services recommends getting in 150 minutes every week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during pregnancy. What counts as moderate intensity? If your heart rate is up, you’re sweating but can still talk normally (you just couldn’t sing if you tried), you’re in the right zone. And mega benefits—such as reduced risk of gestational diabetes, cesareans and preeclampsia, not to mention improved fitness and psychological well-being—make maternity fitness a no-brainer. Of course, you want to be comfortable and still look good (hey, we hear you). No sweat! Here are our picks for best maternity workout clothes from fitness experts and moms alike.
Do I Really Need Maternity Workout Clothes?
If you’re like most expectant moms, much of your pregnancy is spent buying things for baby—furniture for baby’s nursery, clothes, diapers, often even a new home. So it’s common to not want to spend extra cash on maternity workout clothes you’ll wear for a only few months. And sure, in the first trimester, you can easily get away with rolling waist bands under your belly and stretching out tees you have. But eventually, usually around week 20, that belly is going to start showing and such measures become wildly uncomfortable.
Plus, to the surprise of many new moms, it’s not just a few months of wear. “In hindsight, had I known I’d wear maternity workout clothes after delivery, I’d have spent more,” says Olivia Koszuta, a Denver mom of a 3-month-old baby girl who took Spin class twice weekly throughout her pregnancy. “I’m still wearing Old Navy maternity leggings at three months out! Pants just don’t fit normally for a while. It’ll probably take another three months for my belly to go down.”
Every pregnancy is different. It’s most important to assess the changes your body is experiencing. Then pick up the maternity workout clothes that ease any discomfort hampering your sweat sessions—whether that’s sports bras and bathing suits with less restrictive support, stretchier tees and tanks for growing bellies or leggings with over-the-belly waists.
As you change and grow, you’ll quickly appreciate the value of maternity workout clothes, which are “designed to support and flatter an expectant mom’s bump,” says Melanie Darnell, an Los Angeles maternity fitness trainer and mom of three who founded Fitmomma Bootcamp. “You’ll get the extra support and length you need. Plus, feeling comfortable in your maternity workout clothes can be the confidence boost you need to get to the gym.” Koszuta agrees: “It was so nice hearing the girls in Spin class say I looked cute in my fitness gear,” she says.
And good news: You don’t need to buy a ton of items or spend a fortune on maternity workout clothes—just a few key items will do the trick. Here’s a breakdown of the types of exercise clothes you may want to consider, plus a few favorite items.
Maternity Sports Bras
One major body change many pregnant women experience (and many of our partners readily notice) is a rapidly growing bust. It’s often one of the first changes to cause discomfort, resulting in that familiar red ring that surfaces below the breasts when you’re wearing a bra that’s too small. Which makes pregnancy sports bras an essential component of your maternity workout clothes.
As early as six weeks into pregnancy, breasts can start growing larger. They’ll continue to balloon throughout pregnancy—in fact, many women go up one to two cup sizes. If you’re well endowed to begin with, pregnancy workouts can quickly become uncomfortable if you haven’t adjusted to a new bra.
One of the first moves for Calli De La Haye, a certified prenatal yoga instructor who co-founded Kalimukti Yoga, was to ditch all underwire designs and switch to a more comfy, forgiving style.
Some mom-favorite maternity sports bras include:
One of De La Haye’s list of must-haves: H&M MAMA 2-pack Sleep Nursing Bras ($30), which feature a soft jersey and lined cups.
H&M MAMA 2-pack Soft Nursing Bras ($30) are made from a soft microfiber and include a wide elastic below the breasts.
Koszuta’s favorite? The Victoria’s Secret The Player By Victoria Sport Sport Bra ($15). “They’re stretchy and comfy, and I didn’t care if it overstretched because I got a great price: two for $20,” she says.
The Belabumbum Sport Mesh Nursing Bra ($51) provides support and coverage as your chest grows during pregnancy and easy access for nursing—and it’s super-cute.
The Cake Maternity Zest Flexi Wire High Impact Maternity & Nursing Sports Bra ($80) minimizes bounce, reduces friction and wicks away moisture—and it was Darnell’s top pick.
Maternity Workout Tops
As you’re gathering up the best maternity workout clothes for your pregnancy, keep your eyes peeled for some good maternity workout tops. You’re looking for a shirt long enough to go over your belly and beyond, made in comfortable, stretchy fabric. “You want tanks and tees that provide the flexibility for you to grow through your trimesters,” says Teri Lang Patterson, a certified fitness instructor in South Dakota and new mom.
Great go-to maternity workout tank tops are:
One of Patterson’s favorites is the Old Navy Maternity Go-Dry Crossback Keyhole Tank ($20), which features shirred sides for a more flattering fit.
The Motherhood Maternity Side Ruched Scoop Neck Maternity Tank Top ($15) is another solid option. (When my mom sent this to me during my pregnancy, it quickly became my go-to grab for daily walks.)
Another great option to add to your collection of maternity workout clothes? The Gaya Double The Fun Maternity Tank ($25), which comfortably covers the hips.
Or check out these maternity workout shirts:
Athleta’s Finish Fast Tees ($44 to $55) are so stretchable, Koszuta stuck with these, which happened to be her prepregnancy faves.
The Mumberry Vigor Maternity Shirt with Mumband Pregnancy Belt Support ($48) offers built-in back and belly support and super-stretchy softness.
Looking for performance detailing in fun bold colors? Consider the FitBump Thalia Top ($52).
Maternity Workout Pants and Other Bottoms
In terms of maternity workout pants and bottoms of any kind, it’s all about having an easily expandable, comfy waist that won’t distract you from your workout. The moms we spoke with all like the over-the-belly style. “You can get maternity pants with elastic around the belly, but you get to a point where even those slide off,” Koszuta says. “That won’t happen with leggings that pull over your belly.” Looking for a good pair of maternity yoga pants? Trust us, the over-the-belly style will serve you well here too.
Some of the best maternity workout leggings include:
Ingrid & Isabel Active Mesh Detail Capri ft. Crossover Panel legging ($88) sports a graphic gray-black design that’s cut to cover the belly but keeps your back cool and gently supported.
The moms we spoke with, as well as some instructors, swear by Old Navy Maternity Leggings ($15 to $30), which come in different weights and basic dark colors. Julie Goldin, a New York City mom of a 5-month-old baby girl, picked them up when she started showing at seven months. “Highly recommended and affordable,” she says.
More of a pattern girl? Motherhood Maternity Secret Fit Belly Maternity Performance Leggings ($35) are comfy and come in a fun floral.
Need a pair of maternity workout capris?
Patterson’s must-have is the Old Navy Full-Panel Compression Capris ($29). “They’re made with dry-wicking material for cooling comfort and give compression throughout the legs to help with any excess fluids. Plus, the roll bands allow for full coverage or can roll down to fit under the growing belly,” Patterson says. “We all know your body generates more heat than usual during pregnancy, and your maternity workout clothes need to breathe, support and grow with your bump.”
And don’t forget about maternity workout shorts—especially for those hotter months.
Whether you’re looking to work out in the gym or go for a run, the key to reliable maternity workout shorts is to have a nice full panel. Old Navy Maternity Full-Panel Go-Dry Cool Run Shorts ($20) offer exactly that in black or hot pink.
Maternity Belly Belt
More than 60 percent of pregnant women experience lower-back pain during pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. To help ease the strain, many maternity fitness instructors recommend wearing belly support bands with your maternity workout clothes—and all the time! “It’s so important to support your growing belly,” says Sara Haley, a prenatal exercise specialist in Santa Monica, California, who is currently pregnant with her third baby. “Belly belts help take discomfort off the lower back and give core support to help with diastasis recti (separation of abdominal muscles) and pelvic-floor issues. They also give coverage to the belly if you’re someone who likes or needs a little extra coverage.”
Haley recommends the Belly Bandit Upsie Belly Pregnancy SupportBands ($70).
Another exercise choice to ease lower-back pain during pregnancy is swimming. But gearing up can be a challenge. “It wasn’t hard to keep teaching my water aerobics class while pregnant,” says Patterson, who taught into her 41st week. “What was hard was finding supportive swimwear for fitness. The top neck needs to be high enough to accommodate a growing chest and many maternity swimsuits don’t have a support feature under the breasts, which is essential.”
After an exhaustive search, Patterson found one she liked from Prego Swimwear Maternity Sport Tank One Piece Swimsuit ($74).
Another solid choice? The EQ Banded Maternity Swimsuit ($86). It’s got a horizontal band to support an expanding bust, and the slightly gathered fabric under the bust area leaves room for growth without sacrificing support.
If you’re expecting, it’s worth popping into a few stores to see what brands and price points you like best. You don’t have to break the bank stuffing your closets with maternity workout clothes, but a few key pieces can make a dramatic difference in how comfortable you are during your workouts—and how great you feel after them. And we’d say anything that gets you to the gym a bit more often is a sound investment.
Top Photo Model Credit: Christina Caruso / @christinacarusostyle