Do I Need Maternity Clothes? A Comprehensive Guide for Expecting Mothers

Today we’re talking all about maternity clothes. Do I need maternity clothes? Can I skip them? Keep reading to find out!

Do I really NEED maternity clothes?

Pregnancy is a beautiful time for expecting moms, but it can also be overwhelming to deal with all of the changes happening in your life and to your body! Trust me, after four pregnancies, I know.

You are busy prepping your home for your new arrival, researching baby products, and attending doctor’s appointments and childbirth classes. Do you really need to be worried about shopping for maternity clothes too?

Though most people do not have to purchase a whole new wardrobe, you will likely need at least a few essentials to accommodate you through your second trimester and beyond. Not only will maternity wear be more comfortable than your regular clothes, but they are also designed to be more flattering to your growing bump.

The types of maternity clothes you need and how many pieces to invest in can vary widely depending on your lifestyle, body type, budget, and what you already have in your closet!

Our guide will walk you through all the things to consider before you start shopping! Here we go!

Understanding the Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy

For me, watching my beautiful baby bump grow was one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy! It reminded me daily that I was growing a life and felt like a badge of honor that I wore proudly! 

Many women anxiously await the day that their bump “pops. This is when they feel that they “look pregnant”. However, your belly will not be the only part of your body making changes! The first change many expecting mothers experience is breast growth. Your hips may also widen, and even your feet may swell and require you to size up in shoes! 

As your pregnancy progresses, your regular clothes may become restrictive and uncomfortable. Fortunately, maternity clothes are specially designed to account for all of these changes through your entire pregnancy!

Benefits of Maternity Clothes

When I first started growing out of my pre-pregnancy jeans, my husband suggested I just buy the next size up. Like many people, he had no idea  that maternity clothes are not just bigger in size, but they are specially designed with unique features to accommodate you through your entire pregnancy!

Maternity pants often include a stretchy waistband that covers your entire belly to provide more coverage and support. Some maternity jeans have an elastic panel on each side of the waistband for a more discreet look!

Some maternity tops may include ruching on the sides to hug and flatter the bump while other tops may offer a more flowy silhouette. 

Many maternity bras and tops also have easy access for nursing which is a great option if you are planning to breastfeed!

There are even accessories that can be added to your non-maternity clothes to make them more bump friendly!

When should you start wearing maternity clothes?

There is no set time during pregnancy that you are required to start wearing maternity clothes. 

Some women are able to wear their pre-pregnancy clothes until the third-trimester while others need to make adjustments to their wardrobe by 12 weeks or even sooner! If this is your first pregnancy, it may take longer to start showing than if you have had a baby before. However, every body and every pregnancy is different. The only right time to start wearing maternity clothes is whenever you feel ready!

Not sure if you are ready? There are a few tell-tale signs that it’s time to make the switch! Do any of these sound like something you have experienced? 

  • You are no longer able to comfortably button or zip your pants, shorts, or skirts
  • Your bras are feeling tight and uncomfortable
  • You are noticing lines/marks on your skin where your clothes are fitting too tightly 
  • You don’t feel like your regular clothes are flattering your changing body

Your lifestyle and current wardrobe may also influence when you decide it’s time. As someone who worked from home throughout my pregnancy, I was able to spend many days in stretchy yoga pants before officially making the switch. However, if you work in an office or any setting that requires you to wear stiff or formal clothing, you might find yourself shopping in the maternity department sooner rather than later!

Alternatives to Maternity Clothes

If you are limited on funds, having trouble finding maternity clothes that fit your style, or just want to wear your regular jeans a little longer – there are some alternatives to buying an entire maternity wardrobe. 

Oversized Clothing

Oversized clothing may be an option to accommodate your growing belly, but remember that these pieces are not designed with pregnancy in mind so the fit may still be awkward depending on what stage of pregnancy you are in. Oversized button downs can be a chic option in the spring and summer. In the fall and winter, oversized sweaters and cardigans are a cute and cozy staple!

Stretchy Fabrics

You will likely be able to find a few pieces in your closet or from non-maternity brands that are stretchy enough to wear throughout your pregnancy. Stretchy leggings, dresses, and tees are all great options!

Flowing Dresses

Surely you have a few dresses in your closet that leave room for the bump! If you are pregnant in the summer, dresses are a great option on a hot day.

Strategic Layers

You can get away with very few maternity pieces in a fall + winter pregnancy with strategic layers. Non-maternity cardigans, button downs, blazers, even button-down dresses, can be used over the same maternity tank (or tank dress) for lots of different looks. See the styling of these bike shorts below. The bike shorts are definitely maternity but almost everything else isn’t.

Belly Bands & Other Accessories

There are several products on the market that can be added to your regular clothing to make them fit longer during pregnancy. One of the most famous options is the belly band. It fits right over your regular jeans and allows you to wear them without buttoning up! Other options include bra extenders and elastic waistband extenders. Some women even use an elastic hair tie to fasten their jeans in the earlier stages of pregnancy! 

Maternity Wardrobe Essentials

When you are ready to start shopping for maternity clothes, you may become overwhelmed trying to decide which pieces to invest in. You will likely want to build your wardrobe with versatile pieces that will last throughout your entire pregnancy. The pieces that you buy will also depend on what season you will be spending the majority of your pregnancy in. A few great staples to start with would be:

A great pair of jeans

Jeans have been a staple in most wardrobes for decades. Find a pair that fits well and can be styled with a variety of top styles.

My Fave Maternity Jeans

Madewell maternity jeans

a solid choice


fave denim shorts

Soon maternity shorts

another great denim short


The bigger the bump gets, the more comfortable you will want to be! Maternity leggings are the perfect way to dress cute and comfortably throughout your entire pregnancy. You can dress them up or down and wear them year round. There is truly nothing more versatile you could invest in than a good pair of leggings! 

Biker Shorts

I gave birth in September, meaning I spent the hottest months of the year heavily pregnant. Biker shorts were an absolute essential piece of my wardrobe and a much cooler alternative to leggings. Not only are they comfy, but they are super versatile as well!

My Fave Leggings + Biker Shorts

These amazon ones

great budget choice


fave denim shorts



Nursing/Maternity Bras

One of the first changes you may experience in your pregnancy is enlarged breasts. A comfortable and supportive maternity bra is essential. Many maternity bras also double as nursing bras, so if you plan to breastfeed, you will be needing these anyway! 

Order one of these stat

Amazon maternity bra set

great budget choice

favorite maternity underwear

while we’re on the topic

one other thing

this compression slip

Maternity Tops

Some basic maternity tees to pair with your jeans and leggings will be a staple on those days that you are just not up for getting creative. After all, your bump will make anything look cute!

Special Occasion Clothing

Are you having a baby shower or taking maternity photos? You may want to start looking for a few outfit options now! Maternity clothes tend to be limited in-store so you may need to order something online to find the perfect outfit for your special occasion. In this case, be sure to order with enough time to try on your outfit and have any necessary alterations made. 

favorite places for formal maternity dresses

if you have a special occasion coming up during your pregnancy, this list has you covered (at all price points)

Budget-Friendly Maternity Clothing Options

Between medical expenses, baby clothes, diapers, and nursery furniture, you may be stressing about how much maternity clothes are going to eat into your budget. Fortunately, there are ways to save money by shopping in the right places and getting creative!

Many women choose to shop at second-hand stores or online marketplaces for maternity wear. Because maternity clothes are only worn for a few months, they are usually still in great condition and can easily be passed on to the next expecting mother who needs them!

Some women are even able to borrow maternity clothes from friends! If you have a friend who has recently had a baby, reach out to see if she would be willing to loan you any pieces she is no longer wearing. 

If you must buy your clothes new, look for versatile basics that you can easily mix and match throughout your pregnancy to get the most out of a small budget!

best places for cheap maternity clothes

if you’re on a budget and trying to find maternity clothes that won’t break the bank, this list is for you

Styling the Bump

Learning how to style outfits around your new baby bump can be a challenge. Just like before pregnancy, you might have to try on a variety of styles to see what works for your body type!

Some women are more comfortable dressing in flowing styles that conceal their growing belly, while others embrace the bump and wear form fitting tops and dresses throughout their entire pregnancy! 

This can also change pregnancy to pregnancy. My first pregnancy I was all about the form-fitting dresses and tops. This was largely influenced by the current trends (it was 2014 and we were wearing skinny jeans and skinny jeans only). 8 years and a few pregnancies later, I gravitated toward everything loose and flowing.

The most important thing is to dress in a way that is comfortable for you and makes you feel confident! 

Whether you need to buy a whole new wardrobe or just invest in a few essential bump-friendly pieces is up to you! Remember that this will depend on your personal style, needs, budget, and lifestyle! 

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