When it comes to maternity wear, there's a wide range of possibilities to choose from these days, with many good-looking, affordable maternity clothes available for all occasions.
What you need to buy to wear during your pregnancy depends largely on the season and whether you have to dress smartly for work.
If your work does require city dressing, choose some comfortable mix-and-match maternity pants, skirts and tops that will grow with you. For winter, some designers also have beautiful maternity jackets and coats. A big woolly sweater wouldn't go astray either.
You don't need to spend a fortune on a wardrobe of clothes designed especially for maternity, which you might not wear again. You could also choose clothes that expand during pregnancy, which you can wear afterwards when you're back to your previous shape and size.
Apart from your wardrobe for work, a couple of pairs of maternity leggings designed to accommodate your blossoming body and some large, loose T-shirts will be very useful.
Avoid restrictive clothes and anything that restricts blood circulation, like stay-up stockings. Go for skirts and trousers with elasticised waists - you may also need to go up a size or two.
Unless you're an all-year swimmer - which is a good idea when you're pregnant - you might only need a maternity swimsuit if you're in late pregnancy in the summer months.
Because pregnancy is a special time that most of us only experience a few times in our lives, it's worth making the best of it. Pampering yourself a little and feeling that you look good will do wonders for your frame of mind.
Buy a special outfit or two for when you feel like dressing up. In general it's best to choose free-flowing, comfortable garments that are easy to care for and that make you feel good. Choose styles that are unlikely to go out of fashion when and if you become pregnant again. If you want to sell your maternity clothes once you've finished with them, you might be able to find a good secondhand maternity clothing store that will be more than happy to take them.
Unless you enlarge rapidly early in pregnancy, it is not necessary to be fitted for a maternity bra until about the fifth month. Buy two to start with - one to wear while the other's in the wash. These bras are meant to fit you through the rest of your pregnancy, while breastfeeding and until you have weaned your baby.
You can expect your breasts to increase by at least two bra sizes. Some excellent designs are available now, even in black - finally! Go for natural fabrics as much as possible and if you are generously endowed, choose the widest straps available in your size. This will ensure they don't dig into your shoulders as your breasts get heavier. Ensure that you can easily open the cup fastenings with one hand because, although it might be hard to believe now, you will be holding your baby in the other hand before long.
Most women go through pregnancy without buying any special maternity briefs, because regular bikini briefs will sit under the tummy quite comfortably.
Still, some designers have come up with matching ranges of briefs, bras, teddies and camisoles for pregnancy, which can be a bit hard to resist if you're into gorgeous underwear. So if you want to splash out on some of the sexy sets around, why hold back? It's an opportunity that doesn't happen every day.
Your body temperature is a degree higher during pregnancy and extra lubricating fluids are released from your vagina, so it's important to avoid panties made from synthetic materials, which hold in heat and moisture. Choose styles that have cotton gussets and are loose around the crotch.
Support stockings and maternity tights can give your legs extra support, which will be particularly helpful if your job requires you to be on your feet a lot. Wear tights that have a cotton panel or air holes between the legs. Make sure they do not interfere with circulation in the groin area.
The feet sometimes spread during pregnancy and shoes need to be comfortable. Stick to flat shoes that don't make you tip forward. Your spine is already under increased pressure, so you don't need to put it under more. You also want to avoid the risk of falling over.
Flat lace-ups give good support to the arches but they're a challenge to tie late in pregnancy. Most women find slip-ons are easier to wear, but take care to avoid footwear which has no ankle support - like thongs and clogs. This type of footwear can lead to clenching of the calf muscles while walking and increase any tendency towards cramping and varicose veins .
If you can access any clothing factories, check out the availability of locally manufactured seconds. You can often make huge savings, especially on maternity underwear and swimwear.
Edited by Jan Robinson