The short answer is, it depends. In general, women report needing to buy maternity clothes between four months and 6 months. While you might be tempted to give in to your excitement and run out to buy cute new maternity outfits after your positive pregnancy test, you might do better waiting until you truly need them. The reality is, a pregnant body changes somewhat rapidly during the course of nine to 10 months. Your body will not be the same at four months pregnant as it will six months pregnant. And of course, every pregnant person's body changes and grows at its own, unique rate too. So while your best friend needed maternity pants at three months, you may not need them until five months. The good news is that a lot of maternity clothing styles are made to expand right along with you -- thank goodness for lycra! Even so, often, maternity clothes don't fit best when you're just starting to "show." Here are some tips help you decide when to buy maternity clothes while also keeping your comfort and budget in mind.
Find tricks to use your pre-pregnancy clothes as long as possible. This includes buying a belly band (most popular brand is the Bella Band) to cover the gap inbetween your shirt and pants, and be able to leave your pants unbuttoned/unzipped, using a hair/rubber band to connect your pants button (or purchase a B Buckle to extend your waistband), wearing longer shirts in your wardrobe, taking advantage of your yoga pants and athletic clothes when possible, wearing any empire waist dresses in your closet, making leggings an everyday piece of your wardrobe, and even sending off your favorite pair of jeans to have expanding inserts sewn in (Denim Therapy is one business that offers this service).
Purchase a couple of staple items at first. Don't replace your wardrobe in a day -- start slow. Buy two pair of key pants (black pants and jeans, for example) and a couple of basic tops. Continue to pair with other non-maternity pieces in your wardrobe that still work.
When it's time, consider your options. You may not have to purchase all new maternity clothes. Poll your friends who've had babies -- would they be willing to lend you some clothes? Search eBay or Craigslist for gently used maternity clothes lots at a steal of a price. Scour your local thrift stores, kids' consignment stores, or make plans to shop at the upcoming seasonal kids' consignment sale (most cities organize these kinds of sales, and most offer a selection of maternity clothes). For more budget-friendly maternity clothes buying tips, check out this post from Giving Birth with Confidence.
What tips do you have to offer on when to buy maternity clothes? How did it work for you?