Should You Buy Maternity Swimwear? (Swimwear Tips By Trimester)


Dressing a pregnant body has its challenges.  Dressing a pregnant body in next-to-nothing is a whole different ball game.  One on hand, your boobs are fab.  On the other hand, depending on the trimester and the type of pregnancy, you are dealing with an expanding waistline (and butt), cellulite, odd skin discolorations and a whole host of other changes.  “Baring it all” takes on a whole new meaning.


First Trimester

If you will be going through the summer in your first trimester (and it’s your first baby), the key thing to realize is this:  you will not actually look pregnant.  Your boobs will be nice and full (you may go up a cup size or two), and you will mostly likely look thick in the middle, but you will not necessarily look pregnant.  Here’s the first trimester bikini body rundown:

Boobs:  Fab and full

Butt:  Most likely bigger, cellulite might start, even if you haven’t ever had it before

Stomach:  At best it’ll be soft, at worst, flabby

Rest of your body:  General softening – watch for muffin tops and back fat!

Best Swimwear Strategies For the First Trimester

1.  Try a swingy tankini top.

If you are very self-conscious about your thickening middle section, then a swingy tankini top is your best bet.

Postpartum gals:  This swim option will also work post-baby to help cover any remaining jelly-belly.

_6076054I’ve already mentioned the DKNY Faux Wrap Tankini pictured at left in red, but I also really like J.Crew’s tankinis because they have a nice amount of swing.  The Twist Front Swing Top is shown strapless below, but does come with a detachable halter (which you’ll need post-baby).



2.  Make your bikini bottoms pregnancy-friendly

In both pregnancies, I ended up buying new bikini bottoms because of my new-found propensity to muffin top.  You can either go up a size in your old bikini style, try a bikini bottom with ties (totally adjustable), or bite the bullet and go for a maternity bikini.

SeraphineOne example of a fantastic maternity bikini is the Seraphine Jessica bikini, pictured at left, and available at Stella Maternity for $85.  The bikini bottom is actually a roll-top fabric, so you can roll it up or down to cover the muffin top, and yet have it comfortably rest under the belly.

As I mentioned above, a string bikini with adjustable ties can be perfectly adjustedOn731816-05p01v01 to not disturb the muffin top.  Old Navy makes really cute, cheap string bikini bottoms that are easy to mix and match into your existing swim wardrobe.  Remember that your current size is rather temporary, so if cute-n-cheap works, then go with it.


3.  Ignore the belly and go for a bikini top!

Top If you aren’t that concerned about the softer belly (and seriously – you are pregnant after all, not fat), then wear a normal bikini with pride.  Just be sure to actually try on your old tops before dashing off for a weekend in the sun.  There’s a good chance that you’ll need either a larger cup size, or a more supportive style.  Pregnant boobs are heavy.  Your best bets are halter style tops, and if really necessary, an underwire.

The bikini top I just bought for my own pregnant summer #2, is J.Crew’s Solid Ruched Lido Halter Top (pictured at left).  This top is both insanely supportive and  gorgeous.

If you choose to bare the belly in a bikini top, you also have more options to cover the bum.  You can then go the tiny swim skirt route and still look cute.  As I’ve mentioned before, pairing a skirt with anything more substantial than a bikini top is a quick trip to dowdyville.  Ugh.

Second Trimester

From a bikini-body perspective, this trimester varies widely for first time mums.  Some of you will not have “popped”, while others will be sporting an adorable little stomach.  In either case, follow our tips for First Trimester moms, above.  The good news (for those of you that have popped) is that you will simply look better in all swimwear than you did a few months earlier.  Lucky you!

A note for moms carrying twins:  Your belly is probably too big for our First Trimester tips.  Instead, see Third Trimester Tips below.

One downside?  The second trimester is often the time when stretch marks show up (but ask your mom if she had them – that’s generally the best predictor).  Don’t hesitate on the fake-tan.  Most OBs consider them safe to use in pregnancy.

Third Trimester

This is a crazy trimester.  You will start this trimester as adorable-pregnant and quickly grow to big-as-a-house pregnant.  And if your timing is such that it coincides with beach time….well, girl…just go easy on yourself.  The good news is that you will have that pregnant-girl glow, and your hair will be gorgeous.

The third trimester bikini body rundown….

Boobs:  Huge, heavy and a bit veiny

Butt:  Bigger, prone to cellulite and stretch marks

Stomach:  Large, but hard.  Most of you will also see a dark line start forming from your belly button….down.  You may also have stretch marks here.

Rest of your body:  May have swollen ankles and feet, may see some stretch marks on other parts of your body, muffin top, back fat, chipmunk face, etc.

Best Swimwear Strategies For the Third Trimester

1.  Love Your Belly?  Try a Supportive bikini with Larger Bottom

Unless your stretch marks are totally out of control, my favorite option for very pregnant gals is still a supportive bikini.  Not only is it the most flattering option for a huge belly, but it’s also the coolest (temperature-wise).  You will already be hot.  The last thing you need is more fabric.

MA-RACHAEL_1 The dark belly line is something I hated the first time I was pregnant….but now?  I’m over it.  Slather on some fake tan and stop worrying about it.  It’s minor.

A maternity bikini only makes sense if you are carrying low, and are having a hard time finding a bikini that both fits under your belly nicely and has good bum coverage.  Maternal America makes some really great maternity bikinis, like this orange number, pictured at left.

Otherwise, look for a bikini with a supportive halter top and low rise bottoms.  The J. Crew Jersey Lomellina bikini (below, right) is a good example of a
regular bikini that would work for most pregnant bodies.  See how low the bottoms are?

Lastly, watch the…ahem…hair situation.  If you can’t see to
shave, a bikini wax might be in order if you want to wear a normal
bikini bottom.   

2.  Want to Hide the Belly?  Hello, Maternity Tankini

If you are still horrified at the dark line on your belly, or if your stretch marks are totally out of control, then a tankini is your best bet.

1977041swd But unless you are one of those annoying lucky women who just have tiny bellies, you will need to upgrade to a maternity tankini.

For large bellies, I think it’s always more flattering to wear a tankini top that is tight at the bottom…like Pea in the Pod’s Navy Tie-Dye Maternity Tankini, $88, pictured 9833192swdat left.  This overall look tends to be more slimming than a tankini like Motherhood’s Multi-Print Tankini, pictured at right.

3. Try a Flutter-Top Tankini

Duematernity_2108_555766505 A good compromise between a maternity bikini and a maternity tankini is the flutter top.  It’s lingerie inspired, and is a bikini top with two sheer panels that hang down, providing a wee bit of coverage.  My favorite is Maternal America’s turquoise Flutter Top Tankini, currently on sale for $80 at Tummy Style (pictured at left).

Tummy Style carries this swimsuit in turquoise, orange and black.

4.  Avoid One-Piece Styles

Everyone’s belly is different.  Different sizes, shapes, and are all carried differently:
PG1024JAD_1 high, low, etc.  My biggest issue with one-piece styles is that they don’t adhere properly to the belly.  They pull in some places, gap in others.  This is not a good style for anyone.  Just say no.

Even the completely adorable model (pictured at right) looks dowdy in her maternity one-piece. Ugh.

I can’t sign off on such a downer swimsuit, so here are three other adorable maternity swimwear options, just for fun:


1.  Ripe Maternity O-Ring Halter Tankini, $108 at Nordstrom’s.

2. Belabumbum Aqua Ring Maternity Bikini, $69 at Tummy Style

3. Maternal America’s Pucci inspired Flower Power Boy Bikini, $95 at Stella Maternity





  1. great post, lots of good tips BUT i think its missing a most beautiful and fabulous demonstrative photo from the author!

  2. Shana,
    Thanks for posting this – I’m still having hesitations about finding something I like for my massive upper, lower, and wait, now middle sections 🙂 but this will at least give me some direction at some sites to check out…

  3. This is fabulous, thank you! I was hoping to find a one piece vs tankini discussion in a forum somewhere but this is far more thorough and entertaining (and a reminder that it’s about feeling good).

  4. I have a nice maternity tankini from my last pregnancy but I’ve lost about 4 sizes since and while the top should work the bottoms definitely don’t. Do I need maternity bottoms or would regular bikini bottoms work? Can’t remember if they’d cut differently? Thanks!

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