For the last decade, Western medicine has recognised the importance of exercise during pregnancy (where a pregnancy is low risk). While there are some restrictions and caveats, women can enjoy a wide range of activity during pregnancy, working to a level of exertion proportional to their pre-pregnancy activity levels, i.e. very active women will be able to work at a higher level of absolute exertion than less active women, as the more active woman’s perceived level of exertion will be at a higher level of exertion than a less active woman. In either case, it is especially important to keep hydrated and cool during exercise when pregnant. The right gear can make a big difference to staying cool and comfortable when exercising through pregnancy; here’s a round-up of the maternity active wear I discovered/tried/loved/discarded.(1)
The brief I set myself was maternity active wear that used proper sweat-wicking fabrics to keep me cool and dry and fit securely around the bump for comfort and modesty. Trousers and swimsuits were the easiest things to source, while tops were a bit more difficult to come by. See my Pininterest for the maternity sports wear I came to rely on through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Maternity Sports Trousers
Crave Maternity offers a nice line of grown-up maternity active wear and I love their Black Jersey Fitness Pant. These lightweight jersey workout trousers are versatile and I’d recommend one pair for the gym and one for kicking about the house or running errands. The stretchy material is form fitting by not restrictive. The wide fold over panel can be layered over the bump or folded under, as suits you, and between the fitted jersey fabric and the below-bump drawstring, these were pretty much the most securely and comfortably fitting maternity trousers I wore. I felt I got full value for money for £38 as the trousers stood up well to regular washing with little fading and accommodated an expanding bump (the same pair of trousers worked throughout the 2nd and 3rd trimesters).
Swimming is a great activity during pregnancy:
- keeps you cool
- increases circulation
- the belly down position helps the baby get lined up as you get close to the birth
- the nature of the activity helps to ensure regular breathing
- low-impact cardio workout without the discomfort and danger to ligaments that can come from higher impact options
There’s plenty of maternity swimsuits out there, but a majority are cute little tankinis or other beach-friendly options for ‘babymoons’. While going a size up in Speedo worked for the first half of the pregnancy, there came a point where a maternity sports swimsuit was needed and happily such a thing is available from Next at a very reasonable £24.
Maternity Sports Tops
This was the area I struggled with most. While there are an increasing number of plucky UK entrepreneurs offering maternity sports tops, a majority of them didn’t fit my preferred brief:
- long line vest
- sweat wicking sports fabric
- a ‘maternity version’ of ‘normal’ sports top styling
At the time of writing the available options seemed able to hit one or two of these requirements, but I never did find the whole package. In particular, items could be too short in the body or styled with – to me – cheesy and naff slogans. I just wanted a grown-up woman’s black sports top that could handle all this belly that I got! Here’s a run down of my foray into maternity sports top in the UK:
- SportyBump has a small, but well-executed range of subtly styled black and white gear. It fell down for me with the ‘baby doll’ style of the tops; as with my rash guards, I want my maternity sports tops to be very long line, potentially form fitting, and definitely secure under the bump.
- Fit N Fabulous Maternity have really great quality tops, and I tried their scoop neck top. Very nice fabric, beautiful styling and a good fit, but it wasn’t very long line and I didn’t feel it had room to grow with me through the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Their longline racer backs are ticking the quality fabric and long line boxes, but the slogans are not for me. (Note: Fit N Fabulous has great customer service and they offered to special order a plain black racer for me, but as I would not be able to return or exchange if the size didn’t work, I declined).
- BadaBump offer a range of maternity sports tops in proper fabrics, but the colourways are restricted to the pink end of the spectrum and the slogan-riffic vest tops weren’t for me.
- The Yoga Dress in black from BumpsOnTheMove had promise with its subtle styling, great fabric, loose cut around the bump with wide bottom band to keep in place. However, without a size guide I was unwilling to risk another round of purchase and return.
In the end, I used tops from Sweaty Betty throughout my pregnancy. I’ve always founds Sweaty Betty sizing to be quite generous for me, so going up a size to ‘small’ worked for the earlier part of the pregnancy, while a ‘medium’ did the trick for the latter half. In particular the Finalist Tee was particularly well suited to maternity wear. Have been wearing pieces from Sweaty Betty for gym work for over 5 years, and the Finalist Tee keeps to their normal high standard for construction and holds up well to regular wear and washes with no noticeable fading or shrinkage. The loose fit, long line cut and the drawstring at the hem has meant that the top has accommodated my ever increasing bump with comfort and can be worn with confidence that it won’t ride up.
(1) This round-up focuses on UK-based options; suggestions for other options inside and outside the UK are welcomed in the comments!