How to Dress for Labor and Delivery: What Every Mama Should Know

Lately, I’ve been talking about clothes. And what lady doesn’t love conversations like that? Ah, but the clothes I’ve been talking about are for postpartum, leaving the hospital, and now, you are all gagging to know about what to wear during labor and delivery.

Let me just start by saying that when I went into labor with my eldest (you can read that story here, but spoiler alert, my water broke everywhere like in the movies!), I stayed in the maternity clothes I was wearing.

This was partly due to the fact that I knew the change would result in more wet pants. I needed to get to the hospital pronto. My bag was already packed for a few weeks, so I showed up to give birth in maternity pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

I tell you this because you may not get to plan what you wear. But having the right stuff in your hospital bag can assure you of being able to change into something else. Let’s get into that now.

  • You have many options for acceptable labor clothes, though the key is to be comfortable.
  • You may be able to wear a bra (you just might not want to!) depending on the material.
  • There are some things you shouldn’t wear at all like jewelry, no matter what kind of birth you’re having!

What should I wear during labor and delivery?

Now, if you choose something to wear for your labor and delivery, put it in your hospital bag. Then you can change into it. Here’s what you want to think about when you pick.

Make things accessible

Are you shy about showing your body? If so, I hate to frighten you, but everyone will be looking at it. Don’t worry; you get over it very quickly because you’re in pain, and they are there to help you. They’re not judging birthmarks, moles, or your body in any form. But the medical team needs to access every part of your body easily. So, clothing that is easy to open or remove is the best choice.

Consider coverage

signs of labor

Movies and TV shows may give you the impression that you’ll be done with labor quickly. Hahahaha! With my eldest, it was almost 24 hours of labor, and I needed an emergency c-section. You will spend time walking around, trying to dilate more and get this kid to come out.

While that hospital gown is something you can wear (I was stuck with that in my situation), a robe can help because it’s easy to access and remove while covering you when you’re walking, moving, and wishing this baby would get out of your uterus.

Now, for the best clothing to wear during labor, you must go with comfort after following those quick tips above. Your options will be:

  • Hospital gown: They will give you this, though you can find out from the hospital beforehand if they allow you to use a garment you’d prefer that also gives them access to help you during labor and delivery.
  • Birthing wrap/gown: Something like this cozy and cute wrap thing could also work.
  • Oversized t-shirt: Do you have an old, large t-shirt or perhaps one from your husband you are okay with getting messy? This is also a great option because giving birth really creates a lot of mess.
  • Nightgown: You could also use a nightgown, though ideally, I’d pick something you won’t cry about if it gets ruined.

While I don’t want to discourage you from choosing something new or something you like for labor and delivery, I want you to remember once again that childbirth creates a big mess. That said, choose things that are easy to wash and/or dark in color so you won’t see any lingering stains.

Things that flow freely are best, too, because you will move around into different positions and do not want to be confined. Some women go through labor in the nude, which is fine too. And if you’re doing a water birth, you can be naked or wear a bathing suit top if the birthing center permits it. Be sure to discuss this with them as you create your birthing plan.

Do you wear a bra during labor?

You do not HAVE TO wear a bra during labor. However, if you want to, it should be ok. If you want to wear a bra, please check with the hospital/birthing center first to make sure what you wear is compliant. I would go with something simple, comfortable, and easy to take off.

doula and husband assisting woman in labor

DO NOT wear a bra with an underwire or metal. If you are going in for a scheduled c-section, you will not be able to wear it. And if you have an emergency c-section, they will remove it. Metal can pose a burn risk. You can pack a nursing bra in your hospital bag, which will come in handy afterward.

Which type of bra is appropriate for a hospital birth?

The best bra for labor and delivery is a sports bra. And honestly, I love sports bras for just about everything. They are comfortable and easy to work with. Something like this is great because there are no wires.

Do you wear makeup during labor?

Lately, mamas have been wearing makeup to the hospital for delivery. This is because you no doubt want to look your best for those first photos you’ll likely post all over social media.

However, in the event of a c-section, they may remove it. This is because they want to keep an eye on your skin color. For a scheduled c-section, they do not put you under. But for an emergency, they do, and they will need to watch you in the event of trouble closely.

If you want to wear makeup, I’d chat with your doctor and find out the hospital policies. That would be the best way.

One thing you should not wear is fake nails. These can cause trouble with oxygen monitoring devices, so don’t wear them.

Can you wear your own hospital gown during labor?

Yes, you can! Just make sure you’re not worried about ruining it and that it provides easy access for the medical team.

What do I wear on the way to the hospital for labor?

At the beginning of this post, I explained how I wore the maternity clothes I was already wearing. I had no choice. That said, you may not either. You may be shopping with friends when you go into labor and have to have your husband meet you at the hospital.

You may be home like I was, but your water could trickle (or flow!) out. It is silly to change and soil more clothing in a case like that.

But if you simply start having your contractions and you’re home, put on comfortable maternity clothes. I’ve covered many types of outfits recently and any of those would also work well for your journey to the hospital for labor.

What can’t you wear during labor?

There are some things you should never wear during labor. Do not worry if you go into labor while you are out – give these things to your husband, family, or trusted friend. When I was pregnant, I couldn’t wear my wedding band anyway because my fingers were too fat.

Read carefully:

As you approach the end of your pregnancy, try to limit the jewelry you wear just in case. You want to avoid showing up with diamond studs in your ears. Take them out and have them disappear.

The no jewelry rule applies to the wedding and/or engagement rings, piercings of any kind anywhere on your body (even in the mouth), toe rings, bracelets, anklets, necklaces…all of it. NO JEWELRY.

I had a belly ring when I was pregnant with my eldest. I had gotten ones designed for pregnant bellies. But when I went to the hospital, they made me take it out. My piercing had closed up when I was permitted to put it back in. Please keep this in mind if you have one too.

Another thing you cannot wear is contact lenses, at least for c-section births. If you have a normal delivery, it will depend on your comfort. I’d bring your glasses if I were you, just in case you are uncomfortable or need a c-section.

For those using a birthing pool, you may be told not to wear makeup, nail polish, or varnish. This is for hygienic purposes. Even nail polish may be forbidden at hospitals, so call and find this out first. Some advise you not to have it on if you have a c-section.

In short, you should know that looking pretty will likely be the last thing on your mind while you are in labor. I can tell you my thoughts were something like this: “OMG, everyone is looking at my vagina! How many people do they really need to do this? Ugh, I’m cold! Ouch! Contractions! Get this kid out of here! OUCH!”

I was not thinking about how I looked, not until I left the hospital, at least. And I suspect once you’re in the thick of it, you’ll think like that too.

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