Soon after my first pregnancy, it became fashionable to wear a top over another top that is longer and sticks out at the bottom. Soon after that, I heard about a garment called the Bella Band that is simply a wide band of stretchy fabric worn around the abdominal area, such that it looks like a longer undershirt but serves the function of holding up one’s unzipped pants. This innovation enables expectant mothers to continue wearing pants that no longer zip over the expanding tummy. I saw several bloggers raving about it, and it sounded plausible to me.
Ten weeks into my current pregnancy, my jeans–which are high-waisted and relatively close-fitting on my non-pregnant body–could still zip but gave me a feeling of pressure that really bothered my queasy stomach, especially right after a meal. However, when I tried on my old maternity pants, they were too loose. I went looking for one of these stretchy bands.
The brand I bought is the Tummy Sleeve, sold at Motherhood Maternity stores. It was $17, which seemed a bit steep. (However, the store gave me a free baby bottle and a packet of really good coupons!) It is made of nylon spandex and available in several colors.
I wore it every day for 7 weeks. Then I started wearing my slimmest maternity pants some days and the band on other days, for a few weeks before I began wearing maternity pants all the time. At 24 weeks, I can still get into my jeans with the band, if I want to. It looks like this:
These are its good features:
- It does allow you to wear your regular pants for quite a while into the pregnancy, as long as you are growing mostly around the waist and not getting bigger around the thighs.
- It is pretty comfortable when properly positioned. Certainly it’s more comfortable than being squeezed by tight jeans!
- It does not feel like you’re wearing an extra layer of clothing, which is useful in warm weather. However, on cold days, as long as your shirt/sweater hangs over most of the unzipped-pants area, you will not feel a cold draft.
- Most people apparently see it as a long undershirt. I never had anyone ask about what I was wearing, not even friends who pay a lot of attention to clothes. The few times someone remarked that I was still able to get into my purple jeans (or that they perceived me as having found purple maternity jeans) and I explained, they were always surprised.
- You can get away with wearing it all day every day for 7 weeks without washing it! I kept meaning to wash it and see if it would dry overnight, but it didn’t smell sweaty and I didn’t spill anything on it, so I kept not getting around to it.
- One band works with lots of pairs of pants. Even if you’ve paid $17 for one little piece of spandex, that’s still a considerable savings compared to buying multiple pairs of pants in a larger size.
- It does not make you look particularly smooth. If your shirt is short so that the part of your tummy with the unzipped jeans is visible, you can see the edges of the jeans through the spandex, and it looks kind of lumpy.
- The fabric very quickly became pilled and picked up lint from my shirts. This did not improve when I finally washed it. Many patches are snagged and fuzzy, like a swimsuit that’s been worn while sitting on concrete–and not just in the places that rubbed against my zippers.
- The band needs to be repositioned every time you use the bathroom. It’s annoying. It’s important to push it down, not up, when pulling down your pants, because if you push it up around your stomach, it can trigger sudden nausea. (It took me a while to get the hang of this.)
- It can wiggle out of place as you move around–especially if you are standing up and sitting down frequently–so that suddenly you realize either that your pants are falling off or that the band is scrunched around your hips and the top corners of your jeans are flapping and your bare tummy is hanging out. Awkward.
- Even when it stays in place, this clothing arrangement does not feel particularly secure. I was often hitching at it or feeling like I hadn’t quite finished fastening my clothes. Women who are accustomed to wearing low-waisted pants probably would be less bothered by this.
- When I stopped wearing the band, I experienced sudden relief from the “dry skin” that had been bothering me: flaky, painful patches over my hip joints. Apparently these were caused by the seams of my jeans chafing me, which they never had done when the jeans were fastened. Ouch!
Overall, I think that using a stretchy tummy band to transition from regular pants to maternity pants is an okay idea but has some downsides. (A different brand of band might have better quality fabric.) It worked for me…well enough. I was relieved to get into pants that are comfortable without this pesky extra garment, and I wouldn’t recommend trying to wear regular pants with a band all the way through a pregnancy.
If you are planning to get pregnant within the next few years, you might prefer the approach I took when preparing for my first pregnancy: Whenever you are buying pants, choose pants that are loose-fitting with an elastic waist or are low-waisted and slightly loose. I had bought some of each when I purposely gained 10 pounds to try to increase the odds of conception, so that my old jeans didn’t fit anymore; my “temporary pants” lasted through the trying-to-conceive phase and about 16 weeks into pregnancy, at which point I was ready for the slimmer maternity pants. (Don’t buy a whole lot of pants in your second-trimester size; you may need larger ones for the last couple of months!)