Shapewear is a popular foundation garment that creates a sleek, smooth silhouette underneath whatever you’re wearing. Many people consider it a wardrobe essential for when they want to look their very best and feel confident in tight-fitting garments.
You may not be wearing a lot of form-fitting fashion during pregnancy (let's face it, your regular clothes are getting tighter and tighter), but you may still want to wear your favorite body-hugging clothes (we love showcasing baby bumps).
But is it safe to wear shapewear when you’re pregnant?
The Big Question: Is it Safe to Wear Shapewear During Pregnancy?
Is it really safe for pregnant women to wear shapewear, something literally tight enough to shape their bodies? Sherry A. Ross, MD, OBGYN, health expert, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period., says, “As long as you are wearing maternity shapewear safely and comfortably, meaning you can move, breathe and sleep without restrictions or pain, then there should not be any problems.”
Maternity shapewear and regular shapewear are not created equal. Maternity shapewear is designed especially for a pregnant body, constructed with fabrics that make it more comfortable than regular shapewear. It also won’t constrict the amniotic fluid and other cushioning that’s protecting your little one in your womb.
Steer clear of shapewear and clothing considered to be high compression. That may have been fine pre-pregnancy, but as your body changes throughout pregnancy and you pack on extra weight, high-compression garments, including traditional shapewear, will become increasingly uncomfortable.
Some Very Good Reasons to Wear Maternity Shapewear
Advantage 1: Improved Posture and Back Support
Board-certified OBGYN and fertility specialist Lucky Sekhon, MD, says that wearing pregnancy shapewear isn’t just about looking good: "Maternity shapewear can help improve posture and take weight off of your back as your pregnancy bump grows. It can also be more comfortable than your regular underwear or tights, which are prone to slipping and bunching."
Advantage 2: A Postpartum Solution
What’s more, if you’re healing after a C-section, abdominal muscle strain from coughing, laughing, sneezing, lifting, or getting up from lying down can be painful. Postpartum shapewear with a high waist supports the sore areas so everything stays in place and you can carry on daily activities in comfort.
Advantage 3: Puts a Stop to Painful Skin Chafing
“Skin is our largest organ—adults carry some 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and 22 square feet (2 square meters) of it,” according to National Geographic. This protective shield can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria. Sweat, moisture, and heat - plus friction from skin rubbing together (like on your thighs) - can make for the perfect storm.
If you’ve never had a chafing rash, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, many women experience thigh chafing during pregnancy. Besides chafing thighs, groin chafing is also common and excessively irritating. Both areas can get hot and itchy, with stinging and burning sensations.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Put an end to inner thigh burning pain and those painful inner thigh blisters with our Bamboo Seamless No Rub Thigh Saver, women’s long leg underwear for pregnancy and postpartum. Our Maternity Thigh Saver is made from breathable, super soft bamboo that helps keep your skin dry while blocking your thighs from skin-to-skin contact to prevent chafing.
The very light compression can feel great, and we love pairing them with our Gwen Ribbed Bamboo Maternity Midi Dress. They’re also great as “bike shorts” for extra coverage under sheer garments and shorter skirts and dresses, like our Eleanora Bamboo Maternity & Nursing Lounge Dress.
Cautions about Wearing Shapewear During Pregnancy
If you’re looking to wear regular / traditional shapewear during pregnancy, you should be aware of the risks. Regular shapewear options that served your non-pregnant body in the past may harm your pregnant body and baby.
"No pregnancy or postpartum shapewear clothing should overly compress and squeeze internal organs including ribs, abdominal muscles, liver, spleen, and intestines. Shapewear worn during pregnancy that fits too tight or puts unwanted pressure on different areas of the body is never a good idea," according to Dr. Ross. "Besides creating a lot of discomfort, it can also cause pain in different parts of the body, reduced blood circulation, heartburn and yeast infections," she says.
Can You Wear a Waist Trainer While Pregnant?
If maternity shapewear is okay, you may be wondering about using a waist trainer. We’re glad you asked!
The waist trainer is the most concerning type of shapewear for pregnant women, according to Dr. Ross.
Using a waist trainer is a HARD NO while pregnant.
By design, waist trainers compress internal organs like your liver, spleen, intestines, abdominal muscles, and ribs. When cinched too tight, ribs can crack, and your lungs can’t expand, so your breathing is restricted, among other risks.
Shapewear Doesn't Make You Beautiful
You're beautiful. Pregnant, not pregnant - with lumps, bumps, pooches, baby bumps, baby weight, flat stomachs, abs, and everything in between. You’re perfect. Just as you are. You don’t need shapewear to make you beautiful because you already are!
That said, some people enjoy the compression, shaping, and coverage shapewear can provide. Some want their clothes to fit better and be less revealing. Others, including doctors who recommend maternity shapewear, appreciate how it supports the body throughout pregnancy as your baby grows.
According to Dr. Sekhon, "As long as you aren't wearing the type that constricts at the tummy, it is completely safe, and likely to be very comfortable, to wear maternity shapewear.”
This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please reach out to your health care team with any questions.