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Maternity activewear: the ultimate buying guide

Maternity activewear: the ultimate buying guide for pregnancy leggings, feeding bras and recovery tights

For mums-to-be looking to stay active during pregnancy, shopping for maternity activewear can be confusing. Just like your exercise needs change through each trimester, so do your needs for maternity clothes! Whether you choose pre-natal yoga and pilates, continue your gym or running routine, or just want to be comfortable and supported on your walks, finding the best maternity activewear is a must for stylish, active and healthy mamas.


Wanting to know how to buy maternity activewear? We’ve answered the top frequently asked questions in this definitive guide:

What are maternity exercise essentials?
What are maternity tights?
What are pregnancy recovery tights? Can I wear them post c-section?
Can I just wear normal activewear when pregnant?
What are the benefits of compression in pregnancy?
When to buy maternity activewear?
What size should I buy? Should I go up a size when I’m pregnant?
When to wear maternity activewear?
Where to buy maternity activewear in Australia and NZ?
How to find the best maternity activewear?

What are maternity exercise essentials?

With your changing body comes challenges to staying fit and healthy: waistbands that dig in, too tight crops and tights that roll-down. So, what are the best maternity activewear clothes you can buy to make your pregnancy exercise more comfortable through the different stages of pregnancy?

We recommend during your pregnancy (second trimester and third trimester):

Supportive maternity gym tights / maternity yoga leggings
An underwire-free sports crop
A lightweight, breathable top
Supportive, non-slip footwear, or grip socks

We recommend post-pregnancy:

Post-natal recovery tights or high-waisted compression tights
A breastfeeding sports bra
A breastfeeding t-shirt and tank top

Best maternity tights Australia

What are maternity tights?

Maternity tights are leggings that are designed to accommodate a growing baby bump and are tailored to be comfortable for women during pregnancy. They can be worn over or under your baby belly depending whether they feature a high-rise overbelly band, or a curved or V low band to sit underbelly.

Most maternity tights will be constructed from a stretch fabric with lycra or elastane in it to allow you to move comfortably during exercise and not be restricted or uncomfortable with a too-tight fit. The stretch and shape retention in a good quality fabric will keep maternity tights up on their own without them sliding down. You’ll also want to check that the fabric provides squat-proof, opaque coverage so they don’t turn see-through when stretched!

Pregnancy support leggings for workout exercise

When deciding which are the best maternity tights for you to buy consider first what you want to wear them for.

Tights made from performance fabric (generally polyester or nylon with a spandex/elastane component) mean they are best suited to be worn as maternity running tights or gym tights, or as a pregnancy support garment due to the compression they provide. 

Alternatively natural fibres such as bamboo or cotton blends are fine for sleeping or lounging if you don’t require any support.

There are a variety of styles on the market other than black tights including printed (we love florals and leopard prints), maternity tights with pockets and solid classic colours like navy blue, charcoal and khaki.

The length you choose will depend on your lifestyle, weather and style. Full-length maternity tights are the most versatile and can be worn as a maternity pant as part of your daily winter wardrobe with a long cardigan and loafers. In summer maternity tight shorts are on-trend with a 90s vibe when paired with an oversized tee, but are also great to wear under skirts and dresses to feel fully supported. Other length options include ¾ length tights, and ⅞ length tights which can be worn for prenatal exercise in warmer climates.

stylish outfit maternity tights shorts

Can I just wear normal activewear when pregnant?

Many mums-to-be ask whether they need a specific maternity activewear wardrobe or if normal tights are enough. While going up a size in tops and crops might be enough to get you through your pregnancy, most women’s health providers will say that maternity tights are necessary to support your hips, back and pelvis as your bump grows.

That’s because your body produces additional relaxin during pregnancy — a hormone that can relax the ligaments at the front of the pelvis. Wearing the right size maternity tights, particularly compression support tights, can help women with instability or pain around the hips, back and pelvis. So while some women do choose to just wear extra-stretchy yoga tights, you’ll miss out on the benefits of compression during pregnancy.

It is important to note that the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) recommends underwire free crops when both pregnant and breastfeeding.


What are pregnancy recovery tights? Can I wear them post c-section?

Pregnancy or postpartum recovery tights are specifically designed to speed up recovery from childbirth and provide support to help new mums with postnatal issues and injuries. 

Specific conditions that may benefit from wearing recovery tights include: swelling and muscle soreness after delivery, lower back pain, hip and pelvic instability post-birth including post-partum pelvic girdle pain (PPGP), abdominal muscle separation (diastasis recti/DRAM) or weakness, varicose veins, as well as pelvic floor issues.

Pregnancy recovery tights also provide core support for postnatal exercise such as yoga and pilates.

Like maternity shorts, postpartum recovery shorts can be worn under clothing to provide extra support and all-day wear. Recovery tights can be worn every day for as long as you feel comfortable.

While regarded as a hospital bag essential, in reality you may not transition into your postnatal recovery garments until days or weeks after you’re home and you’ve had your baby.

A good post pregnancy support garment will be suitable for wear after a c-section or natural delivery. The seams will be strategically placed to avoid rubbing or irritating caesarean scars.

postpartum pregnancy recovery tights

What are the benefits of compression in pregnancy?

Targeted compression support is recommended by women’s health physiotherapists when pregnant to reduce and prevent symptoms such as swelling in the legs, feet and ankles, 

Graduated compression will help ease tired, achy legs so are the perfect pant to wear when exercising, when travelling or flying to help prevent deep vein thrombosis, or just for everyday support.

Postpartum compression garments can also be worn after having a baby to increase circulation to aid wound healing, reduce swelling and reduce post-pregnancy related aches and pains.

A premium compression fabric should feature 8-way stretch plus breathability and moisture-wicking performance properties to keep you comfy, cool and dry, just like your regular activewear does.


When to buy maternity activewear?

As your pregnancy progresses you’ll be wondering when to start wearing maternity-specific clothes. We recommend switching out your regular tights when they become too firm or start to dig in at the waist.

This is often at the end of the first trimester or early in your second trimester, so usually around 12-14 weeks when your bump has popped. Then it's time to start enjoying your pregnancy in the comfort of maternity activewear. Good quality maternity exercise clothes should grow with you and be a great fit during your entire pregnancy.

While you might feel that it is expensive just to buy a maternity activewear wardrobe for seven months or so it really will make your workouts more enjoyable and comfortable. You deserve to feel good mama!

The right fit will mean exercising without constantly adjusting ill-fitting pants and tops, or dealing with tights that don’t stay up. In fact, many mums-to-be find their activewear so comfy they wear it as everyday clothing. So your cost per wear (total cost divided by the number of times you wear an item) is low and well worth the expense!

comfortable maternity tights online

When to wear maternity activewear?

The perfect maternity workout outfit will be suitable for any type of prenatal exercise from low-impact pilates to F45 gym classes. But don’t just restrict them to your activewear wardrobe – a versatile pair of opaque black maternity leggings play well with dresses, long tops and boots too! 


What size should I buy? Should I go up a size when I’m pregnant?

Maternity tights and crop tops are specifically designed to fit a pregnant body, so we don’t recommend simply going up a size. Because you want to be as comfortable as possible it’s best to check your measurements against the products size chart.

We recommend purchasing your maternity bras and tights as close to when you plan to wear them as possible so your measurements don’t change too much between purchase and wear.

 

Maternity sports bra sizing

Did you know your bra cup size can increase up to 2-4 sizes when pregnant and your rib cage — and therefore bra band size — can expand up to 10cm?! Not to mention another increase in breast size once your milk comes in!

So it’s likely you’ll need to wear a maternity sports bra while pregnant (a regular underwire free sports crop will be suitable) then transition to a nursing bra if you’re breastfeeding after having your baby, rather than wearing a nursing crop (like our Mama Feeding Crop) throughout your entire pregnancy and postpartum.

Due to these changes your body experiences during breastfeeding, we recommend checking your underbust measurement in particular when choosing the perfect size for your maternity feeding crop.

If you buy your pre-baby size in maternity crops and buy your breastfeeding bras while you’re pregnant, even in your third trimester, they’ll probably be too small when it comes time to wear them. 

Maternity tops and t-shirts aren’t as fitted or have enough stretch that they can usually be more forgiving for sizing. 

Maternity tights

It’s vital you get the right size of maternity tights so they don’t fall down and stay up all through your workout. The best maternity exercise tights won’t feel too tight or uncomfortable, but will be firm enough to provide support to your bump, back, hips and pelvis.

Like all maternity styles we recommend using your body measurements to find the right size when selecting maternity leggings. It’s natural for women to put on additional weight around their hips and bottom during pregnancy, so choosing your pre-pregnancy size isn’t always reliable. 

Pregnancy compression tights with a maternity-specific high-waistband (like our bestselling Mama Pregnancy Tight) are designed with extra room in the waist for your bump and expands as you grow, so use your hip measurement — not your waist measurement! If you are between sizes or unsure, then we find it’s best to size up.

Active Truth offers maternity tights in sizes extra small/XS (6-8), small (8-10), medium (10-12), large (12-14), extra large/XL (16-18), XXL (20-22) and XXXL (24-26). We are a proud body-positive activewear brand offering both plus size maternity tights and plus size recovery tights, as well as petite maternity tights.

If you need help troubleshooting fit issues or need a hand navigating our size guide for Active Truth maternity activewear contact our customer care team on hello@activetruth.com

Prenatal exercise clothes for pregnancy

Where to buy maternity activewear in Australia and NZ?

There are limited options for maternity activewear shopping in Australia and NZ. Many products are not technically suitable for sweaty workouts, or don’t provide the support and compression needed to help with pregnancy discomfort. 

The most variety can be found online. Because you can’t try on garments when online shopping it’s important to find a store that offers a generous shipping and returns policy.


How to find the best maternity activewear?

While ultimately it comes down to personal preference, the best way to find out which maternity tights are the best is to ask other pregnant or postpartum mums!

If you don’t have any friends with babies you can read maternity tights reviews on maternity product pages, ask for advice in pregnancy forums and Facebook due date groups, or look at the awards and recommendations in pregnancy magazines and websites.

If you have any questions about the Active Truth maternity range please contact us at hello@activetruth.com.