In the busy final days of your third trimester, chances are you’ll be pretty preoccupied. Between reviewing your birth plan, setting up gear and planning baby’s coming home outfit, you may forget to pick up a few post-birth essentials—like postpartum underwear. While you can certainly grab a few free pairs of disposable panties at the hospital, it’s a good idea to stock up on some more comfortable underwear for the weeks ahead. Here, we’ll discuss why you’ll want them and what to look for—plus our picks of the best postpartum underwear available now.
Do you need Postpartum Underwear?
Yes, new parents will need some form of postpartum underwear after labor. Every person’s postpartum recovery is different, but bleeding after birth is par for the course. Lochia—aka postpartum bleeding—occurs after both vaginal and c-section deliveries. “Bleeding can be heavy, like the first few days of a period, for a week or two. After that, it usually ends up looking like the last few days of your period,” explains Heather Bartos, MD, an ob-gyn and medical director at Be. Women’s Health & Wellness in Frisco, Texas. The bleeding can last for up to six weeks, but most women find that it greatly diminishes by week two or three, she says. Having disposable underwear on hand means you won’t have to worry about staining. Moreover, postpartum underwear is soft and stretchy enough to accommodate large maxi pads, which you’ll definitely need at this stage of recovery.
Types of Postpartum Underwear
Different underwear styles can be useful at different stages of postpartum life. To help you choose the best option for your needs, here are the four main types on offer.
Postpartum mesh underwear: Mesh briefs are super-stretchy and designed to hold heavy-duty sanitary pads. The soft material and high-waisted cut won’t aggravate vaginal soreness or irritate a c-section incision. Typically, mesh underwear is disposable but some brands create styles that can be washed and worn multiple times. This type is freely available at the hospital when you give birth, so it’s worth stashing a few pairs in your bag to use at home. Bartos is also a big fan of these “magnificent mesh panties,” as they’re seriously comfortable and practical.
Postpartum compression underwear: Intimate-wear that offers light compression can be helpful for some people in the postpartum period, especially after a c-section. Similar to belly bands, this type of underwear offers gentle support to the abdominal muscles; just don’t use anything too restrictive.
Disposable postpartum underwear: Designed to be worn once and thrown away, disposable panties are sure to come in handy during postpartum recovery. Aside from bleeding and discharge, urinary incontinence is a typical side effect of pregnancy. “Imagine that 8-pound head sitting on your bladder for the last month of pregnancy—and then delivery as well. Incontinence isn’t even common postpartum—it’s expected,” Bartos explains. Can’t face the thought of washing pee-soaked undergarments? You’re in luck—many brands create disposable undies with an absorbent core to keep you feeling fresh, even if you do pee a little when you laugh.
Absorbent postpartum underwear: Absorbent underwear has changed the game when it comes to sanitary products. They look just like regular undies, but the moisture-wicking material actually absorbs blood, discharge and bladder leaks. While most brands market these products as period panties, there are options designed specifically for new moms too.
Things to Consider when Shopping for Postpartum Underwear
Still not sure what to look for? Here are a few things to consider when shopping for postpartum panties.
Cut and fabric: Swelling, tenderness and pain are common during the postpartum recovery period, so the last thing you want is scratchy, uncomfortable underwear. If possible, opt for soft, breathable fabrics and a full-coverage cut. Intimate-wear with a touch of spandex is also a good option, as it offers plenty of stretch. “Don’t expect to wear your thong or ‘cute’ underwear during the postpartum period,” says Bartos—as you’ll be disappointed when they get ruined. “Anything high waisted (for tummy support) and breathable (ahem, cotton or bamboo) will do just fine,” she adds.
Size: It can take some time for your uterus to shrink, meaning your bump won’t disappear immediately. With this in mind, you may want to size-up when purchasing postpartum underwear. Plus, roomy undies can easily accommodate sanitary towels and ice packs. When in doubt, check the brand’s size guidelines for more information.
Cost: Weigh up your needs and decide how much you’d like to spend ahead of time. Although disposable mesh undies are cheap, you’ll need a fair few pairs so the dollars can add up. On the other hand, washable postpartum panties are more of an investment, but they offer better cost per wear. While absorbent underwear tends to be the most expensive option, they may save you money on sanitary products in the long run—plus they’re better for the environment.
The Best Postpartum Underwear for Every Need
When it comes to intimate-wear every person has different needs, so we’ve done the research and selected the best pair of postpartum undies for every type of recovery. From affordable panties you can chuck in the trash to top-of-the-line recovery underwear.
Image: Kindred Bravely
Overall best postpartum underwear
Kindred Bravely was voted the top underwear brand in our annual Best of Pregnancy awards—with good reason. Stylish and functional, these pretty panties are a major step up from hospital-issued underwear. Made from a super-stretchy rayon fabric, the high-waisted cut is ideal for vaginal delivery, post-op and ongoing c-section recovery. There’s plenty of room for a pad, and the wide lace band won’t rub you the wrong way. They have tons of five-star reviews, and one happy customer wrote: “I love these panties! They are very soft, fit well and easily hold my postpartum supplies without feeling overstretched.” Bonus: Use code 20KB to score 20 percent off sitewide.
Buy it: Kindred Bravely High-Waisted Postpartum Recovery Panties, $35 for a pack of 5, KindredBravely.com
Best postpartum mesh underwear
Searching for mesh underwear that doesn’t look like it came straight from the maternity wing? Bodily has got you covered (literally!). These sleek black boyshorts are made from an ultra-stretchy nylon-spandex blend, meaning they can hold even the bulkiest pads. Lightweight and soft, these briefs offer maximum comfort and breathability. They’re also super-affordable considering the fact that they can be washed on a delicate cycle and reworn. When you’re ready to transition back to regular undies, check out Bodily’s All-In Panty for even more thoughtful design features.
Buy it: Bodily Mesh Undies, $14 for a pack of 5, Bodily.com
Best postpartum recovery underwear
Specifically designed to aid recovery after delivery, these briefs are hard to beat. Four-way stretch fabric adapts to your changing shape, while the seamless waistband can be folded up or down depending on your needs. Plus, an extra-wide gusset and full-rear coverage ensures your sanitary towels won’t budge. Ready for the real standout feature? These undies have a patented 360-degree pocket that can securely hold ice or heat packs in multiple positions. The tapered end of the Between Legs pack soothes the perineal region, while the wide end can be pushed through the seat to ease hemorrhoid pain. Recovering from a c-section? Opt for the Uterine pack which can be worn in a pocket directly over your incision or at the back to treat muscle pain. (Both packs are sold separately.)
Buy it: Nyssa Fourthwear Postpartum Recovery Underwear, $39, Nyssa.com
Best postpartum underwear for c-section recovery
Looking for the best postpartum underwear to wear after a c-section? The C-Panty by Upspring is an ob-gyn approved option with tons of rave reviews. These high-waisted briefs offer targeted compression to reduce post-op swelling, support core muscles and slim your silhouette. Plus, the pull-on style is free from latex, hooks, straps and itchy tags. Ready for the best part? A medical-grade silicone panel protects your incision site and may help to reduce the appearance of scarring and redness.
Buy it: UpSpring C-Panty C-Section Recovery High Waist Underwear, $40, Target.com
Best postpartum disposable underwear
FridaMom is a go-to brand for new-mom essentials—and their disposable postpartum panties do not disappoint. The full-coverage boy shorts are made from a stretchy microfiber material that’s as soft and comfortable as your favorite cotton briefs. Designed for single-use wear, this underwear comfortably keeps pads and other recovery layers in place. One size fits most (waist size 28″ to 42″), and this style can be worn immediately after giving birth through the first six weeks of your recovery journey. Bonus: FridaMom makes disposable c-section underwear too.
Buy it: Frida Mom Boyshort 8-Pack Disposable Postpartum Underwear, $16 for a pack of 8, BedBathandBeyond.com
Image: Belly Bandit
Best postpartum compression underwear
Ready to move on from mesh undies? Supportive underwear can aid recovery after a vaginal delivery or c-section. And these pull-on briefs by Belly Bandit are among the best postpartum underwear out there. Dual zones offer targeted compression to reduce swelling and ease discomfort. The lower area is infused with silver fibers to help minimize bacteria and odor. Meanwhile, the upper section provides firm compression to support core muscles and aid mobility. Stay-put technology and hook-and-eye fasteners also prevent the underwear from rolling down or bunching.
Buy it: Belly Bandit C-Section & Postpartum Recovery Undies, $60, BellyBandit.com
Image: Cache Coeur
Best absorbent postpartum underwear
Can you use period underwear in the postpartum stage? In short, the answer is yes. Absorbent underwear—aka period panties—wick away moisture and absorb blood, discharge and bladder leaks. However, people have distinct needs after giving birth so it’s best to opt for a pair specifically designed for postpartum use. The good news? Cache Coeur, recently launched a line of absorbent intimate-wear for new moms. The Bodyguard briefs have a high-waisted cut and offer up to 12 hours of protection without leaks or odors. Better yet, they’re made from eco-friendly lyocell that’s naturally breathable and antibacterial. Pair them with the matching nursing bra for ultimate all-day comfort.
Buy it: Cache Coeur Bodyguard Postpartum Underwear, $50, IngridandIsabel.com
Best plus-size postpartum underwear
Many brands offer one-size-fits-all undies for postpartum, but these briefs are specifically designed for plus-size moms. Made from a breathable cotton blend with a touch of spandex, these high-waisted panties are comfortable and soft. They also offer light compression and support to smooth your tummy and butt. Looking for something with a lower cut? Motherhood Maternity makes comfy plus-size maternity underwear that can be worn after baby arrives too.
Buy it: Motherhood Maternity Plus Size Post Pregnancy Panty Shaper, $30 for a pack of 2, Motherhood.com
Best value postpartum underwear
Last up on our list of the best postpartum underwear is Always Discreet Boutique. Designed by feminine hygiene experts, these disposable panties will keep you feeling dry and confident despite bleeding or postpartum incontinence. The discreet fit hugs your curves and the silky soft material feels similar to regular underwear. Plus, the cost works out at under $1 per pair, meaning you get plenty of bang for your buck.
Buy it: Always Discreet Boutique Incontinence & Postpartum Underwear, $38 for a pack of 40, Amazon.com
Heather Bartos, MD, is an ob-gyn and the medical director of Be. Women’s Health & Wellness in Frisco, Texas. A navy veteran, she spent 12 years serving the women and spouses of the armed forces, and was an associate professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. She completed her residency at Baylor College of Medicine, and earned her medical degree at the University of Texas.