In my pre-pregnant life, my only interaction with compression wear was sometimes throwing on a pair of compression socks on an airplane to prevent swelling in my legs and ankles during a long flight. Now that I’m growing a mini me, I’m doing a lot less flying and a lot more feeling generally uncomfortable and swollen in my everyday life.
When I entered my second trimester, I started to get pretty tired of feeling so bloated all the time, and worried about what would happen as I got even bigger. That’s when I became a compression fanatic. After all, compression clothing is known for helping reduce muscle fatigue, improve circulation, and decrease swelling in the body. That pretty much sounds like a pregnant woman’s wish list.
Even the experts agree that compression wear is fantastic for pregnant women. We asked Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS, FACOG, a double board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist focusing on the care of women with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy, for her thoughts.
“During pregnancy, a person’s body changes day-to-day, especially with the growing baby bump,” Dr. Clark tells Parenting. “Compression wear, in the form of compression socks, leggings, a belly band or belly wraps, can be worn when doing your daily activities. They serve to provide support when you are most active and can just make you feel more comfortable overall. Compression wear is ideal for the bump on the move!”
I started wearing compression-type clothing pretty early on in my pregnancy (around 15 weeks), and my only regret is that I didn’t start earlier. I love that held-in feeling that compression wear offers, and it makes a huge difference in how I feel in my body during this period of daily changes. Here are a few of the basics I have come to rely on in my maternity wardrobe.
Socks are most people’s entry point into compression wear, whether for athletes looking to speed up recovery or travelers hoping to stay comfortable on long flights. If you thought compression socks were helpful before, just wait until you’re pregnant. Almost everyone has seen the images of very pregnant women and their very swollen ankles and calves. It’s pretty much the epitome of pregnancy discomfort and should be avoided at all costs if possible.
To buy: Belly Bandit Maternity Compression Socks, $29.95; bellybandit.com
Pregnancy can put a heavy load on your legs and feet, and you need help keeping the blood flowing and improving circulation. Compression socks do just that, and I wear my high compression socks from Belly Bandit — yes, you want the ones that come almost up to your knees — almost every day during pregnancy, especially if I’m traveling in the car for long periods of time. If you only buy one piece of compression wear during your pregnancy, make it these socks and put them on each morning before swelling starts. You can thank me later.
I wear my Belly Bandit Belly Boost band with pretty much any outfit to add a bit of holding in to non-maternity or compression clothes. The versatile, supportive band can also help you out during that awkward stage when your regular clothes are getting a big snug, but you’re too small for full-on maternity (or don’t feel like buying a whole new wardrobe).
The breathable, lightweight band can go under pre-pregnancy tops to help you avoid your belly popping out and can also be worn over unbuttoned jeans to keep them up. Because I loved that hugged-in feeling so much, I even sometimes layer my belly band over my compression leggings (see below) for a bit of extra support. The good news is that the band is designed to grow with my bump, so even though I’m still early on, I know I will rely on it to support me when I’m bigger and need extra help alleviating lower back pain.
Light Compression Leggings
When you’re pregnant, you want support from the waist all the way down to keep the lymphatic system moving and to feel supported and secure. Compression leggings are an absolute must for me on a daily basis in terms of staying comfortable. They take the swelling-reduction benefits of compression socks and extend them all throughout the legs. They’re also key in helping me feel somewhat put together while I run errands or work from home. (My partner’s frumpy sweats were just not making me feel my best!)
I have two types of maternity compression leggings that I wear and swear by. Spanx is the OG of compression wear, so it makes sense that the brand excels in the maternity space. For day-to-day, Spanx's Mama Look at Me Now Seamless Maternity Leggings are seriously soft and comfortable, with an over-the-belly band that smooths everything out. I often pair these with my belly band to get a little extra support.
When I need to get a bit more dressed up, I’m obsessed with the Spanx Mama Faux Leather Leggings, which are the maternity version of the same exact ones I wore almost daily before I got pregnant. It’s so comforting to be able to stick to my same style, with a slight modification.
To buy: Spanx Mama Faux Leather Leggings, $110; spanx.com
If I’m wanting a little more support from my leggings without a belly band, I go for my Belly Bandit Maternity Bump Support Leggings. The over-the-belly portion of these provides a shade more compression and lift, which is helpful on the days I’m feeling especially bloated.
For the final piece in my compression-clothing arsenal, my Blanqi Everyday Maternity Support Tank Top has been a staple that gets worn basically underneath everything else I own. I haven’t yet graduated to wearing only maternity tops, but I do appreciate the 360-degree support and extra length that this tank provides under sweaters and long sleeved tees.
To buy: Blanqi Everyday Maternity Support Tank Top, $72; amazon.com
Now that it’s getting warmer (and I’m expanding), this is going to be my go-to maternity top to wear with everything from shorts to leggings. It’s nice enough to sport for a social occasion, but moisture-wicking and breathable enough for the gym, making this compression-style top an absolute must-have in any pregnant woman’s closet.
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