One item women get stumped on time and time again is something to wear while in labour.
It’s really hard to know what you’ll want until the time comes, and it also depends slightly on your birth plans. Don’t worry, you can wear whatever you choose. It’s more important that you’re comfortable than anything.
There are access issues you might want to consider; midwives are going to want to check your blood pressure from time to time, so shorter sleeves or ones you can easily roll up are preferable. Then there are the VEs (vaginal exams) to check progress, although these should be much less frequent, and if you’re planning on breastfeeding, you’re going to want easy access for that all-important first (and subsequent) feed(s) too.
An ideal solution is a button-front nightshirt or even a baggy men’s shirt. They’re incredibly practical, which is the reason they’re only one step removed from a hospital gown! Unfortunately, they can be about as stylish, and can be a nightmare to find unless you’re happy to look about 90! These ones from Mothercare seem to fit the bill quite well, but only go up to an XL.
With any button-front option, you can wear it afterwards for night-time feeds and even team up with some pyjama bottoms or leggings for added flexibility and comfort in those early, crazy weeks.
Let’s be honest, If you’re going to buy something, you might as well get more than one use out of it!
You may have thought there’s not a lot of glamour involved in giving birth, but LaRedoute and HotMilk have some rather cute, and dare I say it, even sexy options! If a drop-waist nightie/leggings combo isn’t your thing, what about a kimono-style shortie bathrobe? Some of their nightwear is even adapted for nursing. So if you do fancy getting a bit dressed up (and why not!) there are options!
If you’re more of a pyjamas girl, you might be wondering if this would work better. The answer is, of course, it depends on you!
As I mentioned above, there are access issues to consider, but these need not be prohibitive.
You might well end up bottomless from about halfway through your labour onwards. But it’s also worth knowing that many women end up completely starkers by the time they deliver, whatever they started in… and frankly by that point, you’re unlikely to give two hoots and the midwifery staff have seen it all before!
So if you can’t see yourself using a maternity nightie again, even if you don’t wear the bottoms throughout, maybe pyjamas are the way to go as you’ll at least get more use out of them later!
After the Birth
Certainly, in the days after the birth while you’re still bleeding (lochia), pyjama bottoms, trousers, or leggings are the way to go because the maternity sanitary pads are bulky to say the least, and it’s nice to feel confident that they aren’t going to go anywhere. (it’s not safe to use tampons, though I can’t believe anyone would want to, it’s a little tender down there for a while!)
If you’re planning a water birth, then a bikini/tankini top or a nursing bra with a longish t-shirt or buttoned shirt over the top makes most sense, as you can just strip off when you’re done and get into a snuggly dry robe, or pyjamas, or whatever you fancy.
In all honesty, you might as well be naked from the waist down while you’re in the pool anyway, your modesty will be covered by the pool sides, especially since you’re more likely to be in an upright position.
Most midwives and birthing centres have hand held dopplers for use in the pool, and can take your blood pressure while you’re in the pool too, so the only reason to get out of the pool is to use the toilet or for a vaginal exam, in which case you’d need to remove whatever bottoms you were wearing anyway. After the first time, there didn’t seem like a lot of point in putting them back on!
No, I’m not joking, some women really do swear by belly dancing in labour, and in some cultures it’s a perfectly normal element of childbirth to do a bit of belly dancing to help baby on its way.
There’s good sense behind it too – hip circles, swaying, figure 8s, and the like are all good active childbirth techniques to keep the pelvis open and help the baby descend into the birth canal.
If this sounds like something that can work for you how’s about this tassely number as an outfit choice!
It’s not just belly dancing that can work – all sorts of dance styles can have the same effect, so don’t be afraid to get that groove on while in labour to the music of your choosing!
Or wear whatever you fancy!
I couldn’t find anything I wanted to be seen dead in when I was planning my first birth (this was 2010 – there were even fewer options then than there are now!), and ended up wearing a long, floaty beach dress I’d had for years. It was soft and comfortable, and because it was old, I wasn’t worried about damaging or staining it. I just pulled it up around my armpits when needed at the hospital. It worked for me just fine. (and it didn’t get stained or damaged at all!)
During my homebirth I just wore an old baggy t-shirt with a maternity bra underneath in the pool, and at some point during I completely removed the t-shirt just because it was getting a bit clammy.
Let’s be honest, when push (literally) comes to shove, your birthday suit is ultimately the most comfortable and practical outfit for birthing in. And you won’t give a toss. I promise.
A friend of mine once said frankly that you could walk a marching band past you when you’re fully in labour and she was right. At that point you are in THE ZONE! While I was in hospital having my first, they switched midwives on me when the contractions were coming thick and fast, and I didn’t even notice until half an hour after the baby was born, despite the fact that one midwife was black and the other was white!
So, each to their own… remember that comfort is the key!
Suppliers of Maternity Wear
Simply Be – up to size 32
Bon Prix – up to size 32
LaRedoute – up to size 32
Matalan – up to size 20
Yours – up to size 32
Next – up to size 22
Vertbaudet – up to size 20
Marks & Spencer – up to size 22
George at ASDA – up to size 20
Tesco – up to size 20 (22 in swimwear)
H&M – up to size 24
HotMilk – up to size XXL or 42H
EB Maternity – up to size 28
Peacocks – up to size 20
or, there’s always eBay!