One of the biggest challenges that expecting moms can experience during pregnancy is finding a comfortable sleeping position. The first time I was pregnant, I was so busy buying things for the baby that I didn’t think about myself. In fact, there are so many products available to moms to make pregnancy more comfortable, and pregnancy pillows should be a staple.
I knew that once I gave birth, I would be sleep deprived but I wasn’t expecting to be sleep deprived before the baby came along. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation’s poll found that 78% of women experience sleep problems during pregnancy. I couldn’t sleep well because I was a tummy sleeper, so once my tummy started growing, I found it harder and harder to find a comfortable position at night. It was only when I was pregnant the second time that I discovered pregnancy pillows and I have never been more grateful. Here is my personal experience of using pregnancy pillows and all the different types that are available.
Do I Really Need A Pregnancy Pillow?
While pregnancy pillows aren’t essential, they really can help moms get their much-needed sleep. I had been sleeping on my stomach my entire life so transitioning to side sleeping was very difficult for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night on my stomach or on my back and I obviously couldn’t control this while sleeping. When I got my pregnancy pillow, I found that it was snug and it restricted me (in a good way) from rolling onto my stomach or back.
The Benefits Of Using A Pregnancy Pillow
A study found that women who slept on their backs had twice the chance of having a stillbirth. Why? There is a vein that runs under the uterus called the vena cava, and when a woman lays on her back, the uterus puts pressure on the vein which restricts the blood flow to the heart and therefore the mom and the baby. There are also a number of other health concerns that sleeping on your back while pregnant can cause: backache, breathing issues, digestive problems, low blood pressure and hemorrhoids. Using a pregnancy pillow can support you to sleep on your side and reduce the chance of rolling onto your back.
Side sleeping is recommended as the safest sleeping position for you during pregnancy, especially later in your pregnancy. Pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to make you sleep on your side and support the different parts of your body.
While there are a lot of contradicting studies, most recommend sleeping on your left side to improve the blood flow and nutrients to the fetus, uterus and kidneys.
As your body takes on the additional weight of your baby, you can begin to experience aches and pains in your neck, hips, legs and back. Using a pregnancy pillow can help you generally feel more comfortable. Pillows are flexible, and you can shift them to fit and prop up particular parts of your body easing some aches and pains.
As your baby gets bigger and heavier, you may start experiencing shortness of breath. You can use your pregnancy pillow to prop up your upper body, taking weight and pressure off your lungs.
Pregnancy Pillow Can Be Used After You Have Given Birth
Contrary to what TV and celebrities make us believe, once we give birth, we still have our baby belly. Shortly after giving birth, your stomach can be very sensitive and your breasts too (from all that breastfeeding). You may find it more comfortable to continue sleeping on your side or if you’re a back sleeper you may be able to go right back to sleeping on your back. Either way, you can continue to use your pregnancy pillow even after you have given birth. Just make sure that you are not using it if you are co-sleeping with your baby as it poses a suffocation risk to your baby. Remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against co-sleeping with your baby.
Use Your Pregnancy Pillow For Breastfeeding
If you aren’t able to spend money on a nursing pillow, you could use your pregnancy pillow by placing the pillow on your lap, wrapping it around your stomach and using it to support your arms while feeding your baby.
When Can I Start Using My Pregnancy Pillow
Pregnancy pillows can actually be used by anyone so you can start using your pregnancy pillow whenever you are ready. It is never too early. However, it is recommended that you stop laying on your back by your second trimester for the safety of you and your baby. Using a pregnancy pillow from your second trimester can support your transition to side sleeping (if necessary).
What Should I Look For When Buying A Pregnancy Pillow
Just like your regular pillow, you’ll want to be able to wash the cover of your pregnancy pillow. You will likely be using you pillow for 9 months or even more so it will need to be washed throughout that time. While you can get away with spot cleaning a non-removable covered pillow, I personally find it easier to take the cover off and throw it in the washing machine.
Pregnancy can make your body produce hormones and experience things you wouldn’t usually experience such as hay fever or allergies. Purchasing a hypoallergenic pillow means that you could avoid potentially being allergic to your pillow.
Just like regular pillows, pregnancy pillows are filled with many different types of materials and people have different preferences. I personally like soft and fluffy pillows while other people like hard and firm pillows. I believe that a good way to choose the most suitable pregnancy pillow for you is to compare it your regular pillow. Pick a pregnancy pillow with similar characteristics.
Microbeads– almost feels like sand inside, very soft and malleable.
Regular pillow– soft and fluffy, can fold and bend to suit you.
Polyester– soft, absorbs heat but is not good for those with allergies because it traps dust and bacteria.
Styrofoam– cheapest option, similar to a bean bag, very soft and malleable.
Memory foam– feels firm and molds to the shape of your body, provides very good support.
Size Of The Pillow
The size of the pillow that you choose may be dependent on how much room you have on your bed. I had my husband and two dogs to share with so this was something I had to think about. Much to my dogs’ dismay, the pillow came out on top. I preferred a whole-body pillow as I found it the most comfortable. It took up a lot of room on the bed, but it meant that I was comfortable and my husband could sleep in peace. If you have other kids, dogs or partners in the bed, this may contribute to your final decision.
Types Of Pregnancy Pillows
C-shaped Pregnancy Pillow
This pillow is shaped like the letter c. You place your back into the curve of the pillow, with the opening on your tummy. You then lay your head at the top of the pillow and wrap your legs around the pillow. This pillow provides support to your whole body and supports you to sleep on your side. It can help alleviate back, knee and hip pain. You will need some extra room on your bed as this pillow takes up quite a lot of space. But it is worth it because of how comfortable it is.
Wedge Pregnancy Pillow
The wedge pillow is the smallest and most portable pregnancy pillow that you can get so they are perfect for those moms who don’t have extra space in their bed. Wedge pillows are best suited to prop up and support different parts of your body. You can place the pillow under your belly, behind your back or under your head to elevate your upper body. They come in 2 different shapes; round and triangular. They are great for targeting certain areas without being too bulky. Because of their size, they are perfect for travelling and are the cheapest option.
Full-length Pregnancy pillow
Full-length body pillows are very similar to regular pillows, but they are much longer. They come in 2 different styles; straight or flexible. You use the pillow by placing it between your legs and then wrapping your arms and legs around it. Full-body pillows provide support to your head, body, legs and hips. However, they do not provide support for your back.
U-shaped Pregnancy Pillow
This pillow is shaped like the letter u. It is best suited to those moms who are used to sleeping on their back but need support to sleep on their side because of their growing belly. To use the pillow, rest your head at the top of the u-shape with the opening at your feet. Wrap your arms and legs around either side of the pillow, giving you the flexibility to turn onto both of your sides during the night. Like the c-shaped pillow, it supports your whole body and can alleviate aches and pains while you sleep. It does also take up extra room on your bed because of its size.
Inflatable Pregnancy Pillow
Inflatable pregnancy pillows are best suited to moms who are used to sleeping on their stomach and who are experiencing discomfort with sleeping on their side due to their growing belly. Inflatable pillows have a hole in the middle of them so that you can lay on your stomach and place your belly bump in the hole. They do need to be pumped up like an air mattress and have a similar feel. You may need to place a sheet or blanket over it to add extra comfort. They are perfect for travelling because they can be deflated.
Additional Sleeping Tips:
- Keep hydrated- try to drink 8 glasses of water throughout the day but slow down before bedtime to keep you from going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
- Routine- try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Developing a routine will condition your body to sleep at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning will prevent you from oversleeping and affecting the following night’s sleep.
- Exercise- it is safe for most pregnant women to exercise for 30 minutes per day (check with your doctor). Exercise will help you sleep better at night because it increases blood circulation and can tire you out.
- Daytime naps- if you are really having difficulty sleeping at night, have naps during the day if possible. Just make sure that your daytime naps aren’t the reason that you aren’t able to sleep at night.
- Massage- if possible, ask your partner to give you a massage using a relaxing essential oil such as lavender. This can help you feel more relaxed and sleepy. Plus, if you sleep better your partner will likely sleep better too. So both of you benefit.
- Get up- if you’re laying in bed worrying about falling asleep, you’re probably not going to fall asleep. Get up and read a book, write or do something relaxing for an hour or so and then try to get back into bed.
Choosing The Best Pregnancy Pillow
There are many different pillow options to choose from. If you are a side sleeper then you may want to choose a c-shaped pillow. If you are a back sleeper then u-shaped pillows are the most suitable. And if you are a stomach sleeper then an inflatable pillow may be your best choice. If you aren’t really sure or don’t want to spend a lot of money, then choosing a wedge pillow could give you the flexibility and support that you need without committing to a human-sized pillow.
After choosing the type of pillow that you want, you then need to choose all of the other features that you want your pillow to have such as material, inner and removable covers. Using this guide can help you choose the right pillow but it is a very individual choice that only you can make.
For more support on choosing the right pillow for you, read our wedge pillow and full-length body pillow product reviews.