I don’t know about you, but as I prepared for birth with each of my babies, what I was going to wear was one of my chief concerns. Yes, it may seem vein and silly– but hey, it matters! Now that I’m a midwife, I realize how important it is for the mom to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
First up, I have to tell you that, as midwives (and OBs!) we do NOT care or judge or even notice what you’re wearing or not wearing. I know, it’s so hard to wrap your mind around that. It certainly was for me, before I tumbled into the birth world. But it’s true, I promise. Clothes, no clothes, pubic hair, no pubic hair. We don’t care, we don’t notice. We’ve seen hundreds of women in their birthday suits (ha! kinda a pun?!), and the only time I take notice is when I think “gosh, she’s so beautifully strong!”. True story!
But of course, we still all agree that YOU as the birthing mom have to be comfortable and confident. So what to wear?? Here are some of the most common options.
- The Good Ol’ Sports Bra
Probably the most commonly worn waterbirth garment. Many women are already laboring in a sports bra and comfy sweatpants or shorts. Sometimes with a baggy shirt or tank top on top, sometimes just by itself. So when the time comes to get into the birth pool, it’s pretty simple to strip off everything else and just get into the water wearing the sports bra. If you’re more modest, sitting in the water obscures anything below the water level pretty well (especially in a semi-dark room). Some women choose to keep a towel wrapped around their lower half as they get into the pool and if you labor on your hands and knees, we can also drape a towel across your back so you don’t feel as exposed.
- Simple and supportive
- Moderate coverage yet won’t make you feel too warm
- Doesn’t feel soggy and wet when you get out of the water
- Hard to get off after baby is born and you’re exhausted and nestled among pillows with a baby on your chest
- If you don’t take it off, holding your baby against the wet bra may make it harder for them to regulate their temperature
2. Bikini Top
Very similar to a sports bra, but usually a bit less supportive and usually just a little bit less coverage.
- Same as above
- Usually easy to get off. Just undo a few strings or snaps!
- You may want more coverage or support
3. Large Shirt
This is often combined with a sports bra, but not always. It can be preferred if you don’t feel comfortable exposing your belly and cleavage. Otherwise, the same things apply as to the sports bra. You can use a towel on your lower half as you get into the pool and if you labor on your hands and knees if you prefer to limit exposure to that area.
- Inexpensive: You probably already have one on hand and don’t need to buy anything new
- Good coverage of your breasts and belly, if that’s important to you
- Feels quite soggy and uncomfortable as you get out of the water
- Because it’s so drippy, your midwife will probably encourage you to take it off as you stand up out of the water, before making the trip to the bed
- A bit complicated to remove, especially with a baby on your chest
- Baby can’t be skin-to-skin until it comes off (limiting breastfeeding, making it hard for baby to regulate body temp)
Absolutely an option! Some women do this naturally in labor and can’t imagine wearing anything at all, others would sooner die than labor in the buff. Either one is completely okay, and completely acceptable. But if you’re comfortable in your birthday suit (okay, this pun is probably getting old).. go for it!
You also may think now that you would never labor naked, but transition has a way of making us lose all natural inhibitions. You might just surprise yourself! 😉
- No preparation needed, inexpensive
- Baby can be skin-to-skin immediately
- Nothing to remove after the birth, nothing soggy to make it difficult for baby to regulate her temperature
- No coverage. If you’re not comfortable with that, this option probably won’t work well for you
5. Tank top
A bit of a halfway point between a sports bra and a shirt. It gives you more coverage, but you can pull it up over your belly if you feel too warm. Depending on the material it’s made of, it also may not be as drippy and wet when you get out of the water.
- Moderate coverage, can be pulled up to feel like a sports bra
- Depending on the type, it may be easier to remove and not stay very wet
- Same as most other items: you’ll have to take it off soon-ish postpartum so baby can regulate his temperature better and be skin-to-skin with you
6. Short Dress
This seems to be especially popular with moms who hire a birth photographer or videographer. I’m not knocking it, this is what I wore for my third baby because I had a videographer! Well, not JUST because of the videographer. I also had my children and sisters there for the birth, so I wanted something that would cover my bottom. Just personal preference, certainly not required just because your kids will be there.
Wearing a short dress is probably the top choice if modesty is a chief concern. It keeps everything covered as you get into the pool, if you labor on your hands and knees, etc. You will have to remember, though, that your midwife will likely want to listen to the baby’s heartbeat at least every 30 minutes. This means lifting up the skirt of your dress (and not wearing underwear.. because… babies can’t come out that way.. teehee!)
It’s also pretty soggy. I had to take my dress off as I stood up out of the pool. It’s not a big deal, most midwives are pretty good about juggling towels around you so you don’t feel like the entire room is staring at your nekkid body as blood runs down your thighs 😛
- Looks cute
- Great coverage, no matter what positions you get into
- Having to lift up the skirt for every heart tone check
- Very drippy and soggy, you will most likely have to remove it before getting out of the birth tub
- You might not have one yet and will have to shop around for the perfect dress
7. Short Skirt
This one can be combined with a sports bra, bikini top, shirt, or tank top depending on your preference. It’s very similar to having a dress, but you will only have to move your shirt up for heart tone checks.
- Looks cute
- Great coverage
- You won’t have to lift it up for heart tone checks
- If you get one made for swimming, it won’t feel soggy and drippy
- You might not haven one yet, and if you’re shopping in winter, you may not find one made for swimming
I think that pretty much covers all the options! Of course, there are a few variations you could consider. Nursing bras are easy to take off but might feel soggy after getting out of the water, nightgowns are very similar to dresses in terms of functionality, and labor gowns like Pretty Pushers look like dresses but are made with easy access for dopplers.
So What Did You Do?
I wore a sports bra for my first waterbirth, a tank top with sports bra for my second, and a dress for my third! How about you? What did you wear, and what do you think are the pros and cons? Let me know in the comments!
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