This post was updated June 2021.
Dressing a pregnant body has its challenges. Dressing a pregnant body in next-to-nothing, however, is a whole other ball game. On one hand, the boobs are fab. On the other hand, depending on the trimester and the type of pregnancy, one is dealing with an expanding waistline, butt and cellulite, as well as odd skin discolorations and a whole host of other changes. “Baring it all” during pregnancy can make one feel especially vulnerable.
Swimwear Tips For The 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.
Just for funsies, here’s a first trimester body rundown:
- Boobs: Fab and full
- Butt: Most likely bigger, cellulite might suddenly appear (even if you have never had cellulite before).
- Stomach & Mid-Section: Expect your stomach to be soft (at best), although many of us might describe it as almost flabby. Also expect a general softening of your torso overall. Your size in general might change (extra muffin tops, and extra layers of fat in your back and arms).
Best Swimsuits (or Bikinis) For The First Trimester
1. Try A One-Piece
If you’re feeling a little self-conscious about a thickening mid-section, then you might be more comfortable in a one-piece. The good news is that one-pieces suits are having a major moment, and there are a ton of options (even flirty, sexy ones) that can help hide a softer belly.
In fact, any of the postpartum swimsuits featured in our yearly Swimsuit Guide would work great for the first trimester, too.
2. Make Your Bikini Bottoms Pregnancy-Friendly
I’m a pretty die-hard bikini girl, so in both pregnancies, I just ended up buying new bikini bottoms. I needed new ones because of my propensity to muffin top in the first trimester. I found it was best to either go up a size in my usual bikini style, or switch to a bikini bottom with ties (it’s totally adjustable). Others have sworn by maternity bikini bottoms for this exact reason.
As I mentioned above, a string bikini with adjustable ties can be perfectly adjusted to not disturb the muffin top. J.Crew makes my favorite string bikinis (I’m still wearing them, all these years later), but Old Navy also makes cute, cheap string bikini bottoms that are easy to mix and match into your existing swim wardrobe.
3. Try A Blouson Top Or One-Piece
If you are very self-conscious about your thickening middle section, yet you don’t want to wear a one-piece…then a swingy blouson top or blouson one-piece might work. This look, however, is quickly becoming dated, and only really works if you stay dry. What’s the fun in that?
Postpartum gals: This swim option will also work post-baby (see more postpartum swimsuit options here).
4. Ignore The Belly & Go For A Bikini Top!
If you aren’t that concerned about the softer belly (and seriously — you are pregnant, yay!), then just wear a normal bikini. 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 a larger cup size or a more supportive style.
Pregnant boobs are surprisingly heavy, even in the first trimester. Your best bets are halter style tops, and if necessary, an underwire.
Swimwear Tips For The 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!
One new hallmark of the second trimester? Stretch marks. This trimester is often when stretch marks start to show up (ask your mom if she had them; that’s generally the best predictor). I’m all for embracing them…but will acknowledge that many would rather cover them up.
In general (and for many reasons including …hi, cellulite) I loved using fake tanning lotions while pregnant. The OBs I talked to considered them safe to use in pregnancy (but you should always check with yours).
Swimwear Tips For The Third Trimester
This is a crazy trimester. I started my third trimester as adorable-pregnant and quickly grew 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.
- 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, chubbier cheeks, etc.
Best Swimwear Strategies For the Third Trimester
1. Show Off The Belly: Try A Supportive Bikini With Larger Bottoms
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 one needs is more fabric.
The dark belly line is something I was very sensitive about the first time I was pregnant…but the second? Over it. I didn’t care at all. I slathered on some fake tan and forgot about it.
An actual maternity bikini isn’t necessary. It may make sense if you are carrying really low and are having a hard time finding a bikini that both fits under your belly nicely and has good bum coverage. Otherwise, look for a bikini with a supportive halter top and low rise bottoms.
Lastly, if you care, 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. Try A Swimsuit With Lace-Up or Cut-Out Sides
Some women carry high, some carry low Some have a tiny little bump (BWAHAHAHA that was not me), while “others” have a belly that has taken over their entire being such that they look like a beach ball with arms [S raises hand].
The point here is that expecting a one-piece swimsuit (even a maternity swimsuit) to fit this wide-range of shapes is not easily done. That said, a totally genius idea that Scotti and Julieta discovered is a non-maternity swimsuit with adjustable (lace) sides. These can be cinched or relaxed exactly to fit your shape and can grow with you. Scotti goes into more detail in her post, but I think this idea is a total win.
3. Want To Hide The Belly? Hello, Maternity Tankini
If you are still horrified at the dark line on your belly, or if you’re not too comfortable with the stretch marks, then a tankini is your best bet. But unless you are one of those 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.
4. Be Careful With One-Piece Styles
As I mentioned above, everyone’s belly is different. Different sizes, shapes, and are all carried differently: high, low, etc., My biggest issue with one-piece styles is that they don’t always adhere properly to the belly. They pull in some places, gap in others and ended up being horribly uncomfortable. HOWEVER. If you find the right one-piece, they can work. Think: ruching, distracting patterns, and ties.
In any case, go easy on yourself, Mama! Pregnancy can be a really tough time, and worrying about how you look in a swimsuit is not even close to worth the brain space. Enjoy this time; I know it’s cliche, but it does go by too fast.
P.S….speaking of fast — when you’re ready for ’em, you’ll be looking for flattering postpartum swimwear — we’re got the deets on that too.