The best maternity bras will put comfort first, supporting your body as it grows and changes.
This is the key difference between a regular bra and a maternity bra, the latter of which has been carefully crafted to ensure it’s free from things like niggling seams and uncomfortable underwiring.
“Maternity bras are designed with the breast changes during pregnancy in mind,” explains Sally Neale, Assistant Buyer at Jojo Maman Bébé. “They tend to offer greater support with wider straps and deeper under bust support to accommodate heavier breasts. They also feature more hooks and eyes than normal bras to allow loosening and tightening during and after pregnancy, and are usually made from soft, breathable fabrics designed to be gentle on sensitive skin.”
When should you start wearing a maternity bra?
There’s no set point in your pregnancy when you should invest in a maternity bra. It’s about personal preference, how your body changes during pregnancy and what feels right for you. “The best time to switch is as soon as your bras start to become uncomfortable,” says Chelsey Olivier, Creative and Brand Director at maternity brand Seraphine. “This is usually some time in the first trimester. Generally, women find that their chest will start to grow before they see a noticeable bump.” If your boobs haven’t changed much in size or shape, you may want to hold off until your second, or even third, trimester.
The good thing about the best maternity bras is that they don’t become redundant as soon as the baby arrives. Many are designed to suit and support your bust post-birth and in different breastfeeding positions too. “We recommend women wear a non-wired bra immediately after birth and for a few weeks afterwards,” says Laura Franklin, customer advisor at Bravissimo. “When the milk starts to come in, the size and shape of your boobs can fluctuate throughout the day, so it’s best to wear a non-wired style to avoid any discomfort or issues like mastitis.” In fact, many women find their maternity bras so comfortable that they continue to wear them long after their pregnancy.
The best maternity bras 2021
To bring you a reliable round-up of the best maternity bras, we enlisted a number of expectant testers at different stages of pregnancy. Between them they wore their bras to work, to pregnancy yoga, when caring for a toddler, and even to bed. Our reviews are a reflection of how comfortable the best maternity bras were to wear, how much support they offered and whether they came up true to size.
1. Elomi Molly Nursing Bra
Best maternity bra for large bust
RRP: £44 | Sizes: 32-44, F-K | Material: 21% Nylon/Polyamide, 6% Cotton, 10% Elastane, 63% Polyester | Care: Hand wash only
If you have a bigger bust, you may find it trickier than most to find a well-fitting maternity bra. Lucky for you, the Elomi Molly Nursing Bra goes up to a size 44HH. “I liked that the three-piece cups have been made with both shape and comfort in mind,” says Georgia Cox, who is four months pregnant. They’re underwired too, so you don’t have to compromise on lift during your pregnancy or when nursing. As for the fabric, it’s lightweight, soft and moisture-wicking – three features that are especially appealing during the summer months. Quick-release cups offer easy access for breastfeeding.
2. Mamalicious Maternity Nursing Soft Bra with Lace Trim
Best maternity bra for a small bust
RRP: £20 | Sizes: S/M-L/XL | Material: 72% Nylon, 20% Polyamide, 8% Elastane | Care: Machine washable
If you have a smaller bust, this non-wired, unpadded bra is a great choice. It can be worn by those with bigger boobs too, but only for sleeping or pottering around at home. “The material is so soft, I totally forgot I was wearing it,” says Sally Baird, who is six months pregnant. “It’s a racer back style, which makes it really easy to wear but it also means you can’t alter the straps.” This detail can affect the level of support the bra offers, especially as your breasts grow during pregnancy. The double-layer design makes it perfect for fuss-free feeding once the baby arrives too.
3. Ann Summers The Glorious Maternity & Nursing Flexi-Wire Bra
The best maternity bra with underwiring
RRP: £26 | Sizes: 32C-38G | Material: 63% Polyamide; 31% Cotton; 6% Elastane | Care: Machine washable
Ann Summers have recently expanded into maternity bras, promising confidence-boosting lingerie for all stages of your pregnancy. This bra has been specially designed to give mums-to-be the option to wear wiring without discomfort, thanks to a clever ‘flexi wire’ which is both soft and bendable. It’s not completely without its niggles, especially as the pregnancy progresses, but the lacy design of the bra does lend itself better to occasional wear anyway.
“I would save this for an evening out,” says Karla Shepherd, who is seven months pregnant. “My favourite thing about the bra was that the access for breastfeeding was via a gold magnetic fastening. It’s far prettier and more discreet than an obvious clip hook.” It’s a small touch but helps the bra feel more fashionable than functional. Unfortunately, as the clasps are magnetic, this bra wouldn’t be suitable for anyone with a pacemaker.
4. JoJo Maman Bébé Emma-Jane Zara Maternity & Nursing Bra
Best maternity bra for support
RRP: £17.50 | Sizes: 32B-F-38B-F | Material: 90% Polyamide, 10% Elastane | Care: Machine wash at 30°
Don’t let the ‘one size fits all’ cups put you off, this bra fits like a dream at all ends of the sizing spectrum. It’s all thanks to the jewel in its crown: the soft, super stretchy material that grows with your changing figure. It washes well, and most importantly holds its shape, which isn’t always the case with non-wired bras. It’s up to you whether you take the removable foam pads out, or keep them in for extra support. Our tester was particularly impressed by the back clasps and nursing cup clips.
“They’re really easy to use,’” says Fiona Wilson, who is eight months pregnant. “Some can be quite tight but this was easy to do one-handed – especially helpful when holding a baby!”
5. Seraphine Bamboo Nursing Bras – Twin Pack
Best maternity bra for comfort
RRP £35 for two | Sizes S-XL | Material: 78% Viscose (Bamboo) 17% Nylon 5% Spandex | Care: Gentle wash at 30°
Those looking to make more ethical fashion choices will like that this bra is crafted from bamboo. The material has other benefits too, such as being hypoallergenic and helping to regulate body temperature. As for the comfort factor, this bra scores top marks. “It is SO comfortable and soft!” says Karla. “It fits comfortably over the top of my bump and I would definitely sleep in it, as well as wearing it all day.” It does come up a little big, but with so many hook and eye options on the back strap, it’s easy to adjust the fit. This bra has celebrity fans too, with Millie Mackintosh wearing it while nursing her daughter.
6. Royce Florence Nursing Bra
Best maternity bra for lift
RRP: £36 | Sizes: 32D-38H | Material: 41% Polyamide, 30% Cotton, 24% Polyester Care: Machine washable
Teaming style and practicality in one very pretty package, this maternity bra is far from mumsy. There’s no wiring or padding, but the shaped cups ensure it still offers plenty of lift and support. It’s the little touches that make the biggest difference. “I love the look, design and feel of this bra,” says Karla. “The print and lace are very pretty, the lining soft and the hook and eyes easy to adjust as you grow.” It’s worth noting that the sizing can come up a little big, so either size down, or consider this a style to grow into during your pregnancy.
7. Cake Maternity Chantilly Nursing Bralette
Best maternity bra for a stylish look
RRP: £39.90 | Sizes: Cup: B-D-DD-F back: S-XL | Material: 81% nylon, 16% elastane, 3% viscose | Care: Cold hand wash only
With rave reviews from our testers, there’s no way we would round up the best maternity bras without giving this bra a mention. Proof that you can still feel stylish and sexy when pregnant, it looks, at first glance, just like a very pretty lace bralette. But, not only is the lace pleasing on the eye, it’s super stretchy too, making this comfortable to wear and giving you room to grow. The bra also features more hook and eyes than average too, so it can be expanded up to half a size bigger if needed. “The support is amazing and I like that it has a plunging neckline without being too low,” said Sally. “It’s also multi-use as well, so it can easily be changed into a racer back, with drop-down cups for nursing when it’s time.”
8. Freya Erin Moulded Nursing Bra
Best maternity t-shirt bra
RRP: £34 | Sizes: Back sizes 28-38 cup sizes C-H | Material: 63% Nylon/Polyamide, 19% elastane, 18% polyester | Care: Hand wash only
As exciting as it is, pregnancy can also be a confusing time. And needing a whole new wardrobe can make you feel like you’re losing some of your identity. It’s for this reason that our testers loved the Freya Erin Moulded Nursing Bra. “It looks like a normal bra, which is quite nice when feeling heavily pregnant,” says Fiona Wilson. “The cups are quite moulded which gives a great shape under clothes, but does mean it’s not quite as comfortable as some stretchier maternity bras.” All clasps are easy to fasten and release in a hurry though, so it’s easy to whip off when you get home. The size range is seriously impressive too, catering for a wide selection of body shapes.
9. Cake Maternity Lotus Hands-free Pumping Bra
Best maternity sports bra
RRP: £39.90 | Sizes: XS-XL | Material: 95% nylon, 5% elastane | Care: Cool machine wash
Keeping up with your pregnancy exercises? Then this might be the maternity bra for you. “I found it to have the ideal support for my yoga classes,” explains Sally. “It’s double-layered, which holds you in and stops you from falling out when you bend over.” Spill-proof support aside, the extra layer is also there to convert into a pumping bra once the baby arrives. The crossover racerback helps to take the weight off your shoulders too. It’s true to size, which makes shopping online easy. There are currently three colour options available, but the on-trend tie-dye is our top pick.