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Maternity Clothing Sizes: The Ultimate Guide

Medically Reviewed by Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
Buying well-fitting clothing during pregnancy doesn't have to be a tedious task.

What if I told you shopping for maternity clothes isn’t nearly as terrifying as it seems? I know; cue the uproar. If you’re anything like me, shopping feels like an absolute nightmare when you’re pregnant.

You don’t want to choose something frumpy, and you don’t want to squeeze your belly into something too tight.

That’s why we’re going to have a crash course on understanding maternity sizing. We’ll go over everything you need to know about maternity sizes and how to determine the correct size. Spoiler alert: It’s not difficult.

Key Takeaways

  • Maternity clothes sizing is generally the same as pre-pregnancy sizes, but trying on various sizes is recommended for the best fit.
  • Proper fit in maternity clothing is essential for comfort and confidence during pregnancy.
  • There’s no specific time to start wearing maternity clothes; it depends on when regular clothes become uncomfortable.
  • Versatile maternity garments include maxi skirts and dresses, flowy tops, leggings, and maternity jeans or overalls.

Importance of a Proper Fit

I don’t think I need to go into extensive detail about why a proper fit is essential; we all know that. Nobody wants to look in a mirror and feel awkward or uncomfortable in their clothing. These are, however, prominent issues with many pregnant women.

During pregnancy, your body goes through some significant changes. It takes a while to recover, and in some cases, your body is never the same. One’s body image and self-esteem may, unfortunately, take a temporary hit (1).

Between weight gain and hormones, the fact that your regular clothes may not fit anymore adds icing to an already-tumultuous cake. With adequately fitting maternity clothing, you’ll feel more comfortable and walk with confidence.

How to Size Maternity Clothing

So, how do you find the right maternity clothing size? In most cases, your maternity size is going to be around the same size you were pre-pregnancy (2).

If you wore a size medium before, you stick to the maternity medium now. The same idea goes for pants. A woman who was a size 10 pre-pregnancy would still be a size 10 during pregnancy.

However, there may be some cases where you’ll need to buy a different maternity size than your regular clothing size. It all depends on a brand’s sizing and how you carry your baby.

This is where fitting rooms come in handy. I suggest gathering a few sizes of the same garment. One in your pre-pregnancy size and one size bigger and smaller.

Then, you can head to the fitting room and try them on. Whichever one you think is most comfortable will be the clear winner.

In my experience, the biggest issue tends to be with pants. I was a size 8 pre-pregnancy, but my size 8 maternity jeans were constantly falling down. By going down a size, I found pants that fit well.

Most maternity shirts and dresses are stretchy, so you could potentially go one size lower with those.

Depending on the item’s design, you may also buy a size or two up in non-maternity clothing. This is where you’ll need to be mindful, though. If you do this, be sure to try on the garment before purchasing, or become familiar with an online store’s return policy.

When to Look for Maternity Clothes

Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. While some women feel the stretching and weight gain almost immediately, others are lucky enough to wear their regular clothes for longer.

There isn’t any set time in your pregnancy to break out the maternity clothing. When you start feeling uncomfortable in your regular clothes, you can start looking. If you still aren’t sure, here are a few helpful things to look out for:

  • Your pants won’t button (and it isn’t Thanksgiving): Tip: there is a handy trick with a hair tie if you aren’t ready to retire your regular pants yet. Just take the hair tie and put it through the buttonhole. Then take both sides and loop them around the button.
  • Your belly is peeking out from under your shirt: If your tummy is starting to poke out from under your shirt, it’s probably time to invest in some maternity clothes.
  • Your bra feels tight: A properly-fitted bra is essential for comfort and breast health. If your bras feel tight, consider getting a few maternity or nursing bras.
  • You can’t button your button-down shirts anymore: You could potentially get away with wearing these longer if you wore another shirt underneath and left it open.
  • You’re starting to feel bloated: This happened to me early on. That’s when I would do the hair-tie trick with my pants.

Tried and True Maternity Garments

Is shopping your Achilles heel? If you dread the idea of shopping for clothing you’ll end up packing away in a few months, don’t fret. I have a few suggestions for you.

These pieces are highly versatile, and you can wear them far beyond pregnancy. You’ll probably be wearing your maternity clothes for the first few months after the baby arrives anyhow.

  • Maxi skirts and dresses: These are stretchier and roomier than most other styles and typically provide good coverage. They’re usually flowy and adjustable, better for the warmer months. Some may even come with a breastfeeding-friendly top portion to suit you when your baby arrives.
  • Flowy tops: Most maternity tops are on the loose side around the belly. If you invest in a few neutral-colored pieces, like black, white, and grey, you can pair them with many outfit choices. Often, they’ll have an empire waist to add shape and accentuate your growing bump.
  • Leggings: We love leggings because they’re oh-so-comfortable. You can throw them on under a long, flowy T-shirt or with a dress and be cozy in no time. Most maternity leggings have a high-waist feature for added support.
  • Maternity jeans or overalls: There are two main style options here. Some come with a belly band, and others have elastic panels incorporated on the sides. Both are effective, but I personally like the elastic sides better — they’re more subtle, and you can still use them after your baby is born.


How are Maternity Clothes Different?

Maternity clothes are specially made to work with a growing belly and changes in the body with features like stretchy fabrics, adjustable waistbands, and comfortable, supportive fits.

Why is it Important to Wear Appropriate Clothes During Pregnancy?

Wearing appropriate clothes during pregnancy is important for comfort, support, and health. Properly fitted clothes can help with circulation, prevent strain, and adapt to your changing body.

Should I Buy Maternity Clothes or Just Bigger Sizes?

While buying bigger sizes is an option, maternity clothes offer specific features for comfort and support that regular clothes might not provide. Consider at least a few key maternity pieces.

What is Considered Plus Size In Pregnancy?

Plus size in pregnancy typically refers to women who wear sizes 14 or larger before pregnancy. Maternity clothes often have their own sizing, with plus-size options available.

How Tight Should Maternity Pants Be?

Maternity pants should be snug enough to stay up but not so tight they dig into your skin or feel uncomfortable. Look for adjustable waistbands or stretchy panels to accommodate growth.

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Headshot of Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Medically Reviewed by

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN is an oncology nurse navigator and freelance medical writer. Mary has 4 years of experience as an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps. including emergency/trauma, post-anesthesia, and deployment medicine.