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Maternity sizes work the same as regular clothing sizes. That is, if you're normally a size "small," you'll still be a small in maternity sizes. Same thing with numbered sizes: If you were an 8 pre-pregnancy, look for items in that size.
And when it comes to jeans, particularly the designer sort that are labeled by waist size (for example, 28-inch), you'll still shop for a pair in that same size – just the maternity version. (True, your waist is no longer 28 inches but designers make it easier to find your current size by sticking with your pre-pregnancy number.)
Don't give in to the temptation to buy nonmaternity clothes that are a size or two larger than you normally wear, as if you were simply packing on the pounds. You'll end up with ill-fitting clothes that aren't nearly as flattering as properly tailored maternity wear. Designers make maternity clothes with extra fabric and details that keep you comfortable, like stretchy belly panels or empire waist ties, while flattering your body.
If you go shopping in the early stages of your pregnancy and your belly hasn't really popped yet, most maternity stores have handy strap-on, fake bellies, so you can see how the garments will fit you by the 7th or 8th month. This will help you buy things that will fit and flatter you throughout your pregnancy.