Your ever-changing body may be a concern to you during pregnancy. Is it safe to wear Spanks, or to wear shapewear while pregnant? Today we’re going to talk about why you might want to wear a shaper, and also why pregnancy shapewear can be a risk — and what to watch for.
But before we get started, how do I know all of this? Hi — I’m Hilary — The Pregnancy Nurse 👩⚕️. I have been a nurse since 1997 and I have 20 years of OB nursing experience, I am also the curly head behind Pulling Curls and The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. 🩺 I have talked with thousands of women who want to keep looking great while they’re pregnant, and have also seen the con’s of wearing these garments as well — so I’m excited to share this information with you.
Come join me in my free beginning prenatal class where we give you some important steps to being in the drivers seat at your birth.
Note: I would always recommend talking with your provider about things you wear frequently like this — issues like high blood pressure, placental issues may change what’s best for you to wear, and doctors are used to fielding questions like this.
What is Maternity Shapewear?
Maternity Shapewear is a type of shapewear that is specifically designed for pregnant women. Regular shapewear is often too tight and puts unwanted pressure on the lower back and tummy, which can be uncomfortable for pregnant women. Trying to wear regular shapewear while pregnant is not a good idea, as it can be too tight and cause problems for the body.
Here are a few popular options people use:
- Spanx has a maternity option
- This one comes in lots of sizes
- This one also has some great reviews for it
Pro Tip: If you find your size is too uncomfortable, you could also try going up a size. That might make it less uncomfortable and more to your liking.
Most often these maternity garments go from about your bra line to mid-thigh. However, with maternity shapeware they do have LIGHT to no compression over your abdomen (mostly to smooth out lumps and bumps), and allow your belly to grow and breathe.
Many still have compression above your abdomen, and then more compression in your thigh/buttocks area.
How is maternity shapewear different than regular shapewear?
Maternity shapewear is different than regular shapewear in a few key ways.
First, maternity shapewear is designed to provide support for pregnant women, while regular shapewear is not. Often they have extra support under your belly — which can feel nice.
Second, maternity shapewear typically has light compression, while regular shapewear often has more compression.
Third, there is less compression over your abdomen. Often in regular shapewear your abdomen has a LOT of compression, which is not true for their maternity counterpart.
Is It Safe to Wear Shapewear During Pregnancy?
It really depends on how far along you are, what type you’re using and more — but let’s go into some risks and benefits:
Risks of Wearing Maternity Shapewear
The biggest risk would be a lack of circulation — more especially cutting off the circulation from the lower half of your body, preventing it from returning to your heart and possibly causing swelling. I talk about this more in my post about wearing tight pants during pregnancy.
Another risk is just being super uncomfortable. While growing in the womb, babies do benefit from small spurts of stress in your system (because, remember whatever stress hormones you’re putting out, the baby gets them too) — think a quick deadline at work, a quick pace to catch a bus, etc. But, long-term stress isn’t good for the baby (or you). So, if you’re wearing (and hating them) daily — it just isn’t worth it for either of you.
Sometimes compression clothing can make it hard to breathe — think of the women with their corsets back in the day. You want to make sure your baby is getting all the oxygen they need — so if your garment makes it hard to breathe — it’s time to take a break from it.
Shapewear may also make you extra hot. It’s an added layer of clothing, and I prefer not to have extra layers when I’m pregnant, so that’s something to consider as well.
And, as you’re holding in all that extra heat, there is a chance of a yeast infection, or vaginitis without the proper air flow to your lady bits. It just un-naturally constricts your crotch area.
Benefits of Maternity Shapewear during Pregnancy
It may make you feel better. It’s no surprise that beyond your stomach there are lots of areas changing in your body and you may have bumps/lumps you didn’t have before. So, if wearing something that helps smooth all that out makes you feel great — it may well be worth it.
This type of situation may be for just a few events during your pregnancy. Perhaps you have a wedding or a nice party you want to attend — shapewear may give you that added boost of confidence you need (I’d just give it a try for a few hours before the event to make sure it’s not causing any issues).
Wearing shapewear on just a few occasions is very different than wearing it daily, as I’m sure you can appreciate.
Maternity shapewear can also support your changing body. Similar to maternity support belts, shapewear can do something similar. That support can be super helpful when you’re on your feet a lot, or doing things that may make your pelvis unhappy.
Sometimes shapewear can also improve your posture or gate (how you walk) as well depending on how it is fitted.
Shapewear can also stop chaffing. As your belly, thighs, body changes — things may rub together that didn’t used too — and shapewear can really help that as well (although you can get similar results from something that doesn’t provide compression.
You can also use something like Glide that I have found works really well!
If you’re dwelling on undergarments, you might want to check out my post on if you should wear a bra during labor.
Is maternity shapewear the same thing as compression clothing?
Maternity shapewear does come in different types of compression, although most aren’t made for the same reason you might wear compression socks.
Most often maternity shapewear is just trying to smooth out your figure under your favorite clothes. Compression clothing is meant to decrease swelling, and return blood to your heart from your body (I have a whole post on when you should wear compression socks).
What is a maternity support band?
It supports your pelvis and the ligaments within it. I have a whole post on maternity support belts that will help explain what they can do for you.
Keep in mind that those “straps” or “belts” aren’t meant to SMOOTH you out (most often they create extra lumps I find) — they’re to support your body — and that requires firmer fabrication.
Can I wear Spanx during early pregnancy?
If you’re very early in your pregnancy, it shouldn’t be an issue.
I guess the question is why. So often those first few months you don’t feel well. If you’re miserable in your shapewear during pregnancy, it really is NOT worth it.
And, once your belly is expanding, it would be time to switch to maternity shapewear instead (as you don’t want the abdominal compression that regular Spanx would have).
Help, I Wore Normal Spanx And I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant!
You’re fine. You may have been extra miserable, but your baby is so small at this point, you have plenty of layers over it to protect it.
What Is Postpartum Shapewear?
Postpartum shapewear is different, many women find stomach or pelvic support helpful, but they are thicker and wouldn’t “smooth out your shape” like regular shapewear. They’re really meant to help support those muscles and ligaments until they’re able to do their jobs again of holding your body together.
Some people call this a waist trainer, and if that is something you are interested in, talk with your provider. Most people feel like once your body is healed from pregnancy it would be time to start re-building your pelvic floor and abdominal muscles back so they can do that on their own — a waist trainer just sucks you in, it doesn’t re-train those muscles. That takes time.
Personally, I had symphysis pubis separation and a pelvic support belt was a LIFESAVER for me — but it’s VERY different than shapewear. If you have pelvic pain, talk with your provider about what is best for you to use.
And, as a note I’d stay away from any type of “shapewear” those first few weeks as your body is healing and you need nothing pressing on either your healing lady parts or your cesarean section scar. However, support belts can be helpful during that time — talk with your provider about what’s right for you.
So, all in all I want you to feel great about how you look during pregnancy, and be mindful that being MISERABLE with your shapewear might not be worth it. However, a lot of women find that for special occasions, or needs using maternity shapewear can actually make them feel better overall.
But, you know what will really make you feel better? Taking a prenatal class. 🙂 The Online Prenatal Class for Couples can be done in just three hours, from the convenience and comfort of your COUCH. That’s right, a shapewear-free zone for you to both get prepared for your upcoming birth!
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.