How to choose maternity underwear and pants for after birth

Old pants, over the belly pants or under the belly pants – which are best? Pregnancy and beyond pants don’t have to be…pants, here’s what you need to know.

You might be wondering whether to choose over the belly pants, under the belly pants or whether maternity underwear is even worth it. Then there’s after you give birth. Here’s our guide to the plethora of pants possibilities…

Pregnancy pants

Old knickers

There are many different options for pants in pregnancy. Many women find their old knickers are fine as they sit underneath the belly so still fit well.

You might though find your old shapewear or control pants too restrictive to wear. And bear in mind you might start to suffer with chafing especially towards the end of your pregnancy. Tight or skimpy underwear might not be the most comfortable.

Big knickers

Other women swear by big knickers.

Mel, mum to Phoebe and volunteer with Redhill, Reigate and Horley NCT branch, says: “Full brief granny pants. Sexy? No. Comfortable? YES.”

Bigger knickers

Some women find that as well as their bump growing, their bum does too.

Eleanor, mum to Toby and member of Bromley NCT group, says: “I just bought supermarket multipacks of knickers in the next size up, ending up two sizes bigger at full term. They fitted under the bump and accommodated the ample backside!”

Maternity knickers

You can also get maternity knickers that have an elasticated band and sit high over your bump. These can also keep your bump warm in cold weather.

Whether it’s your old underwear or new maternity pants, just go for whatever feels best to you.

See our article about pregnancy weight gain to find out more about how your weight might change.

Comfy pants for after the birth

It’s worth having old pants on hand for after the birth that you don’t mind throwing away. (You’ll see what we mean.) You could also do this for for the end of pregnancy when your waters might break or you might have a show – the mucus plug coming away.

Some people even get disposable knickers so they don’t have to scrub stains from their underwear.

Remember that you’ll need pants that you can use maternity pads with because of the bleeding (lochia) you’ll get after birth. This bleeding can last for several weeks.

Underwear for after caesareans

Loose styles of pants are a good idea as you may be feeling sore after the birth, particularly if you had a caesarean (NHS, 2016). Big, high-waisted briefs are the way to go after caesareans as bikini styles could rub on your scar.

Women who’ve had a caesarean are particularly encouraged to wear cotton underwear (NICE, 2011). You can also buy specific post-caesarean underwear if you like.

Feeling good and looking good

Maternity underwear has moved on from what it used to be, thankfully, so you can still feel attractive.

You’ll probably have a lot of physical changes happening, which might include weight gain and stretch marks. So if investing in some pretty maternity underwear helps you to feel good about yourself and your changing shape, then go for it.

Plenty of retailers now offer lots of stylish maternity options with patterns and lace, and many come with matching bras. See our article about finding pregnancy and feeding bras.

And breathe out…

Cotton and other natural fabrics are usually the best materials to go for when you’re pregnant or after you give birth (Public Health England and NHS England, 2018). That’s because they’re breathable.

See our article for more tips on how to keep cool when you’re pregnant.

Whatever type of pants you choose, whether you go for the biggest knickers you can find, style or something in between, comfort can help you feel better. Sometimes it’s the little (or not so little) things that help you through the discomforts of pregnancy.

This page was last reviewed in June 2019.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

To find out more about your body during pregnancy and after the birth, read our week-by-week guide to your body during pregnancy, and our articles about your body after birth, what happens to your breasts after birth? and bleeding after birth.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

NHS. (2016) Recovery - caesarean section. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/caesarean-section/recovery/ [Accessed 6th February 2019]

NICE. (2011) Caesarean section. Clinical guideline [CG132]. Available at:   https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg132/chapter/1-guidance [Accessed 6th February 2019]

Public Health England; NHS England. (2018) Beat the heat: staying safe in hot weather. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/731044/2018_Beat_the_Heat_Leaflet.pdf [Accessed 6th February 2019]

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