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Buyer Beware: Maternity Underwear

A peek at four kinds of pregnancy panties

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Buyer Beware: Maternity Underwear
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There are plenty of options out there for pregnant women when it comes to underwear, but deciding if these highly specialized items are for you depends on both your budget and, in some cases, your willingness to drink the proverbial maternity-style Kool-Aid.

Before you slap down that credit card, learn all about how to buy the right panties for your pregnancy and consider the following:

1. Pregnancy Panties: Premium Price

Some pregnant women think these are the cat's... behind. Many others believe that if you think these sound like a good idea, you might also want to consider buying that bridge in Brooklyn.

The truth is, maternity panties - marketed as "special" and "extra accommodating" - offer very little that you can't find in regular underwear, albeit in perhaps a different size or fabric than you're used to. They come in all shapes and sizes, of course: bikinis, briefs, hipsters, over-the-belly and even foldover.

And while some maternity-underwear manufacturers would have you believe their product is somehow earth-shatteringly different than the ones you wore before baby was on board, they're not. But wait, you say. What about those that are specially designed to sit high on my now-watermelon-sized stomach? And so what if they are? You could buy jeans that come up to your nipples, too, but that would be neither fashionable nor comfortable, whether you're knocked up or not.

Aside from compression underwear - elasticky garments some women use to support their burgeoning belly, and ease swelling and (possibly) varicose veins - maternity undies are just like regular panties, only you'll probably pay a premium for the privilege of wearing a pair.

2. Maternity Thongs: Naughty or nice?

Thongs are one of those things you either love or you hate. Again, the "special-for-pregnancy" variety are not really worth the extra investment... and not exactly the best way to soothe those hemmorhoids, either. The bottom line is, if you like thongs and insist on wearing them all the way through to delivery, go for it. As with buying new "regular" underwear when you're pregnant, opt for the low-riding kind in a bigger size and you'll be just fine (as well as a whole lot sexier than the rest of us!)

3. Shaping Underwear: Frumpy but functional

If you're planning to wear a form-fitting dress, skirt or pants at any point during your pregnancy, investing in one decent pair of over-the-belly maternity shapers might be worth it. There are numerous styles and brands on the market available at both maternity specialty shops and lingerie stores; some include full thigh and backside coverage, too. The lycra support they provide can give big bellies a boost right where you need it, so you may actually feel a little lighter on your feet.

4. Post- Partum Panties: Disposable Underwear?

Yes, it exists - the infamous so-called "disposable post-partum panty." While the term "panties" normally calls to mind images of lady-like satin and lace, this particular variety is more like adult diapers... only worse because at least with diapers, someone else changes you.

Papery and thin like edible underwear though certainly not as much fun, disposable underwear simultaneously evoke both the neonatal nursery and the geriatric ward. Manufacturers tout their economy and ease of use - perfect for holding giant pads in place after the baby's born, and disposable so that you won't ruin your real undies.

But no matter how much of a deluge you produce in the days post-partum, many fashion-forward mothers-to-be fear that the indignity far, far outweighs the convenience of disposable maternity underwear. Granted, your hospital stay will not be one of the beauty highlights of your life, but a more style-conscious alternative is available: Simply dispose yourself of a cheapo six-pack of real underwear instead.

If, for some reason, you do decide to take the plunge - like if they happen to be giving them away at the hospital - these one-size-fits-all behemoths come in convenient multi-packs. Save any leftovers, cut an extra hole in the crotch and have your five-year-old wear them as an art smock. Alternately, staple the leg slots shut and use them to bag raked leaves in the fall.

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