Tried and tested: maternity activewear

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The I-don’t-have-anything-to-wear blues ramps up a notch or three in pregnancy.

While you can get away with your regular wardrobe well into the second trimester thanks to loose fabrics and clever cuts – hello elasticized pants – the same doesn’t apply to activewear.

Before the first trimester is up, there’s every chance that belly is straining against your favourite high-waisted workout tights. I hadn’t officially announced my pregnancy before I ditched my regular gear for maternity tights.

The thing is, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on lycra that I’d only wear for a few months, so I made a rookie error and went for a cheap, fast fashion pair that I figured would do the job.

I figured wrong. There was a reason they were cheap. The fabric felt flimsy and the crotch kept sagging somewhere around my knees, so that I was constantly pulling them up.

To save you from making the same mistake, we enlisted the pregnant women in the body+soul office to put a selection of maternity workout wear – plus non-maternity pieces that will see you through your bump and beyond – through their paces.

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Best supportive bra

Berlei Post-Surgery Active Bra, $59.95, berlei.com.au

Bek, size 14-16, 34 weeks pregnant

“The first bra I trialled was the Berlei Post-Surgery Active Bra, suitable for C-E cups. It’s wirefree with a zip front with self-locking zipper. This bra is the undergarment equivalent of who I aim to be as a mother: supportive, firm and able to hold everything together in a tight, neat package. My boobs were not going anywhere, and if it wasn’t such a risk to my pelvic floor at this late stage of pregnancy, I could have done star jumps without them moving.

The Reebok x Gigi one strap bra, $55, was billed as perfect for post-pregnancy breastfeeding, but it is sadly, a more accurate reflection of the mother I am: aspirational but delusional about how well I am holding it all together. While it was comfortable to the point of feeling as though I wasn’t even wearing a bra, it was … as though I wasn’t even wearing a bra. I am sure the smaller-breasted among us (of which Gigi Hadid, the bra’s designer, is one) would greatly benefit from the chic, one-shoulder design and soft, luxe fabric, but my sad, unsupported left boob was left several inches lower down my torso than its sister. No deal.”

Best soft bra

Intimo Active Racer Bra, $89.50, intimo.com.au

Hannah, size 8-10, 16 weeks pregnant

“My boobs are now large and in charge, so I was a bit hesitant when putting on the Intimo sports bra. Although not a maternity bra, I was pleasantly surprised – there was none of the squashing or flattening that you usually associate with sports bras, and I felt supported with good coverage from the soft inbuilt cups. Thankfully, the bra was snug without the dreaded double-boob overflow, and I had no issues with spilling out during my downward dog.

With four size clasps that can be adjusted as my body changes, I’m confident that this bra will see me through my pregnancy and give me a reason to stay active.”

Best under-bump tights

Ripe Maternity Women’s Balance Knee Leggings, $40.45, amazon.com.au

Renata, size 10-12, 22 weeks pregnant

“Most of the maternity tight options are over-bump, which is all well-and-good when you’re after support, but in the midst of an Australian summer plus the higher body temperature that comes with pregnancy, it can be too much fabric.Under-bump tights are few and far between, but they’re great because you’re automatically cooler and it feels like your belly can breathe. The mesh inserts behind the knee also help and the super-soft fabric doesn’t feel constrictive.

Best of all, this design has a zipper pocket in the back, which not a lot of maternity tights do. These have become my go-to casual weekend daywear, I can just pop some cash and a key in the pocket and go for a walk sans-bag.”

Best all-rounder

Ten Activewear, The Connie Tight, $89, thetenactive.com.au

Hannah, size 8-10, 16 weeks pregnant

“I’m at that ‘is she or isn’t she’ stage. But while it might not be completely obvious to those around me, I’m certainly feeling very pregnant, and my body shape has definitely changed. My stomach and thighs are rounder and fuller (don’t get me started on my boobs) and some clothing that fitted me a few months ago is now snug, and sometimes uncomfortable.

The Ten Activewear was the solution to my too-tight-tights problem. They have a generous band for growing bellies and love handles, which left quite a bit of room to cater for my bump in a few months time. Comfort is a key factor for these leggings, and after a brisk walk around the park and a yoga session, there was no awkward riding up and no annoying falling down.”

Best compression tights

Active Truth Pregnancy Pocket Full Length Tight, $124.99, activetruth.com.au

Renata, size 10-12, 22 weeks pregnant

“Just like regular compression tights, these take some tugging but once on they’re snug and supportive. On a hot day, it’s a lot of thick fabric to deal with, which makes them a better proposition for the cooler months. Saying that, I reached for them when I needed the compression, even in the middle of January. They’re were fantastic on those days my lower back felt like it needed a bit more support. If you fancy the support minus the sweat-factor, try the brand’s Mama Bike Shorts, $89.99.

When my calves and feet started to swell around the 26-week mark, I wore them on a flight in lieu of compression stockings. They’re also supposed to be great post-pregnancy, especially if you have a C-section. I also loved that these tights had two large side pockets, big enough to fit a smartphone.”

Best non-maternity tights

Lululemon Align Pants, from $89, lululemon.com.au

Renata, size 10-12, 22 weeks pregnant

“While these aren’t official maternity wear, they contain some kind of magic that lets them stretch up and down as your belly grows. Which hopefully means they’ll also fit post-bub. The Hulu fabric is soft, smooth and light. It feels more like putting on a silky pair of opaque tights than activewear and the waistband can be worn over or under the bump. Because the fabric is barely-there, they feel cooler which makes them a great full-length tight option in summer.

While they say you can stick to your regular size during the whole pregnancy, I went a size up. At around the 22 week mark they were a little roomy, but still stayed where they were supposed to. Now that I’m 28 weeks, they’re a tad snugger and I’m confident that they’ll still fit until I hit the 40-week mark.”

Best tank top

Reebok Y Seamless Maternity Tank, $50, theiconic.com.au

Renata, size 10-12, 22 weeks pregnant

“In my pre-bump life I preferred loose tanks rather than ones that hugged my torso and I tried to keep it up as long as I could. Eventually I had to give in, even my husband’s T-shirts wouldn’t accommodate my growing belly and I needed something that was cut to shape.

This fitted tank was just still quite roomy at 22 weeks (pictured) and the stretch is strong enough that I’m still wearing it at 28 weeks when I’m a lot bigger. The racerback means I’m not worrying about straps slipping off, the moisture-wicking fabric has worked wonders during a Sydney summer and no seams means no itching.”

Best swimwear

You Swim one-size swimwear, $195, australia.youswim.com

Renata, size 10-12, 22 weeks pregnant

“A friend put me onto these one-size swimmers that claim to stretch and ‘adapt to your body’s state of flux.’ I was sceptical, but seeing as a woman’s body is fluxing at its finest during pregnancy I decided to give it a go. Plus, my colleagues at Kidspot.com.au were right when they recommended these one-size-fits-all undies that have seen me through three trimesters now, so it was worth a shot.

The swimmers are good for sizes 6-18 and I was recommended the Aplomb One-Piece, because the vertical and horizontal flexibility in the textured rib fabric has the most stretch for a pregnant belly.

At 22 weeks it was fantastic. It stayed on during aqua aerobics when my side-tie bikini would get loose from all that underwater jumping. At 28 weeks, it still fits but the growing bump and all that stretch means the more it has to go out, the more it rides up so it now wears as a very high cut, one that ensures my bikini line needs to be taken care of. Seeing as I’m not going to be able to reach it very soon, I might have to retire it until post-partum when the bump turns into a mum-tum. If you’re going this option, the bikinis should work well and sit comfortably under the bump.”

Please note the body+soul writers were gifted these activewear pieces, but reviews are always the unbiased opinion of the author, and free from commercial influence.

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