What are Pregnancy Pillows for…, Benefits, Types, and How to Choose One?
Updated: Sep 18, 2022
We are here to answer all the questions. For starters, pregnancy pillows can bring so much-needed relief to sleep deprived expecting mothers. Getting a full night’s sleep is important, more so, when you’re pregnant.
There is no doubt pregnancy is hard on a woman’s body. As you progress through the weeks in your first, second, and third trimesters, bodily discomforts are likely to appear. Specially in the later stages of pregnancy when sleeping in a normal position becomes a real challenge.
Additional weight often stresses the back and joints, including the hips, knees, and ankles. This can cause aches and pains that make getting a full night’s rest difficult.
Regular mattresses are not designed to provide comfort to a pregnant woman, and it may lead to body aches and hinder her sleep.
Since many pain relief options are off the table during pregnancy, you have to get creative about preventing and treating these discomforts. This is where a pregnancy pillow comes in handy.
Using a pregnancy pillow is a great way to ward off many of the most common aches and pains.
These pillows can be found in different shapes and sizes to accommodate and support your sleep position and help relieve discomforts.
What is a Pregnancy Pillow?
Pregnancy pillows are specialized pillows specifically designed to accommodate and support expecting mothers where it’s needed.
Most traditional pillows aren’t made to hug the contours of a pregnant body, leaving you vulnerable to back pain, leg cramps, pelvic stiffness and, ultimately, restless nights or even insomnia.
The most common types include C-Shaped and U-shaped full body pillows that provide support to the entire body, and wedge pillows that can be used to strategically support a single area like the midsection or back.
Why do pregnancy pillows work?
You might be asking yourself, pregnancy pillow does it work?
Most pregnancy-related pain is related, in some way, to a lack of support; you carry a lot of extra weight while growing a baby and that puts intense amounts of pressure on your back, hips and pubic bone, legs, and feet.
This can feel especially noticeable during and after sleep, when it’s easy to remain in a less-than-ergonomic position for hours on end.
Pregnancy pillows provide overall support to growing bellies, and help the expecting mom to attain a comfortable resting position.
They definitely make sleeping more comfortable during pregnancy.
There are three main areas where pregnancy pillows really shine: under your belly, behind your back, and between your legs.
These are the spots that benefit from extra support while you sleep during your pregnancy.
Though they might not work wonders for everyone, in general a pregnancy pillow can:
Ease your adjustment to a new sleeping position
Keep your neck, back, and hips aligned during sleep
Reduce the pressure around your hips and pubic bone by keeping your legs parallel to one another
Improve common pregnancy conditions like heartburn, nasal congestion, and leg cramps
Prevent you from accidentally rolling over onto your back while you sleep
Do I Need a Pregnancy Pillow?
Even though a pregnancy pillow is not a necessity, getting comfortable is key if you’re experiencing sleep disturbances as your pregnancy progresses.
As you reach your third trimester symptoms such as back and joint pain, heartburn, and sleep apnea can worsen.
Everyone should consider whether their pillows and mattresses are providing correct alignment of the spine, but this is especially true during pregnancy.
Simply being pregnant places strain on your spine, ligaments, and joints. Sleeping out of alignment will only exacerbate these problems. It’s also easier to pull or strain muscle when you are pregnant.
You can try to add extra cushioning with additional standard pillows, but a pregnancy pillow is specially designed to accommodate and support your pregnant body.
That said, you can definitely piece together a supportive pregnancy nest for yourself with ordinary pillows you already have instead of purchasing a specific pillow.
The disadvantage with ordinary pillows is that you won’t easily be able to change positions during the night without rearranging your whole setup, and you won’t have a portable option for travel, if needed.
Benefits of Using a Pregnancy Pillow
The most obvious benefit of a pregnancy pillow is that it helps the woman sleep better by providing support to the body. Following are some of the other benefits of using a pregnancy pillow:
Alleviates body aches and pains. A pregnancy pillow will provide support and comfort to your back, hips, and legs to ensure proper rest.
Enhances the circulation of blood: Sleeping on your sides promotes blood circulation, and it is recommended for pregnant women.
Better, more relaxed, and longer sleeping hours.
A maternity pillow will be useful even after the baby’s birth as it will help you sit up comfortably to put your baby in the right position during breastfeeding.
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When Should I Start Using a Pregnancy Pillow?
While there is no fixed time to start using a pregnancy pillow, you can begin making use of it when you feel uncomfortable while changing positions during your sleep.
At around 20 weeks of pregnancy, the belly starts to expand, causing pain in the ligaments and other parts of the body due to the increase in weight. This is a good time to start using a maternity pillow.
How to Choose a Pregnancy Pillow
If one or more of the many discomforts of pregnancy are keeping you from getting a full night of sleep, a pregnancy pillow is worth considering.
But with so many choices, including different sizes, materials, and unusual shapes, it’s hard to know which is the right model for you.
The best approach is to consider all the factors involve, the shape, the materials, and your needs.
What are the Factors and What to Consider When Purchasing a Pregnancy Pillow
Knowing exactly what to look for in a pregnancy pillow will largely depend on your own personal needs; including where you need support the most.
Since bedding companies don’t always use plain language to describe their products, it can be difficult to decipher the major differences between models.
We are breaking down and covering the most important factors to consider so that you can find a pregnancy pillow that works for you.
Your preferred sleep position will come into play when choosing a pillow. Sleeping on your left side while pregnant, is recommended by doctors for optimal blood circulation.
For this reason, the majority of pregnancy pillows are designed to make side sleeping more comfortable, including C-shaped and U-shaped pillows.
Height or Thickness of Pillow
The right pillow height is critical for healthy spinal alignment, and it can also help with snoring.
A model that is too thick might push the head up, while one that is too thin could allow the head to droop, either of which could contribute to back or neck pain, and airway constriction that can increase snoring.
The ideal height depends primarily on body type and sleep position.
A low loft pillow is around 4 inches thick or less, a mid-loft pillow is 5 to 6 inches thick, and a high loft pillow is anything thicker than six inches.
The amount of support a pregnancy pillow provides depends largely on its shape.
Full body pillows can support multiple parts of your body and oversized models will essentially cradle you from head to toe.
Smaller pillows like wedges may be firmer, but they only offer support to one area.
Different pillow models will provide varying levels of firmness.
Pillows made from polyester fiber fill tend to be softer and are a good option if you only need a bit of extra cushioning.
Foam-based pillows are generally firmer and may provide additional support to the lower back and legs.
Pressure relief refers to how well a pillow molds to the shape of your body and alleviates pressure points.
This is especially important for pregnant people dealing with chronic body aches such as back, hip, pelvic or leg pain.
Pregnancy pillows generally fall into two main categories: body pillows and smaller support pillows.
Body pillows, including C-Shaped, and U-shaped pillows, are designed to offer support to the head, neck, abdomen, back, and knees. While body pillows can be quite bulky, they make side sleeping easier.
In contrast, smaller support pillows, including wedge-shaped ones, are meant to provide concentrated support to a single area.
For people with chronic pain during pregnancy, whether it's round ligament pain, sciatic nerve pain, or lower back pain, feeling better during those nine months is worth every penny spent on the pillow.
The good news is that you can find excellent pregnancy pillows at affordable price-points.
Pregnancy pillows typically cost less than $100, between $30 to $70.
If you’re on a limited budget, you may want to consider a smaller, less expensive support pillow, like a wedge.
Pillows are made of, and covered with a variety of materials, some of which may be more comfortable for you than others.
Also, materials impact a pillow’s durability, breathability, level of support, and firmness.
Polyester is the most common type of material used for both the cover and fill in pregnancy pillows.
Polyester-based fabrics and fills are generally affordable, durable, and can come in many textures and levels of firmness.
If you want softer or more adjustable support, a polyfill pillow may be better than firm memory foam.
Foam is a good choice if you’re looking for a pillow that provides firmer support coupled with pressure relief but, if you get hot at night, you should skip the synthetics.
As your body changes during your pregnancy, it’s important to consider every level of comfort that your pillow can provide.
Certain materials are more likely to help promote airflow to prevent you from overheating as you sleep.
Polyester-based materials are often breathable, making them ideal for pregnancy body pillows.
Memory foam is the most likely to trap heat, and tends to be more suitable for smaller pillows.
Can the cover of the pillow be removed and washed or changed
Cleanliness is an important aspect to be kept in mind while the pregnancy is progressing. A lot of sweat is generated during pregnancy, and the pillow cover will absorb it. Having a removable pillow cover will allow you to keep the pillow clean and maintain hygiene.
Pregnancy Pillow Types and Shapes
You can find different types and shapes of pregnancy pillows.
A pillow’s shape will determine the type of support it provides.
Some shapes are designed to support your entire body from head to toe, while smaller models bolster specific areas such as the back or stomach.
You’ll need to consider where you need support the most in order to choose the shape that’s best for you.
We’ll take a closer look at the most common pregnancy pillow styles on the market.
C-Shaped or Contoured: This style of pillow is long, thin, and curved. The C-shape is one of the most versatile styles of pregnancy pillows. It’s not very bulky and its shape allows you to arrange it in different ways depending on where you need support.
You can lay it out lengthwise to create a full body pillow to cuddle while side sleeping, or fold it in half and use it to support your back or belly (depending on how you position it), Keeps legs and hips parallel, and Keeps neck supported and aligned with back.
Wedge Pillows: are the most compact style of pregnancy pillow. While they don’t offer full-body support, you can use these inexpensive pillows to strategically bolster various parts of your body.
They can offer support to a targeted area, like under your belly, behind your back, or between your knees. They can prevent rolling over during sleep, and keeps you cooler than a full-body option.
You can also couple one or more wedge pillows with a larger pregnancy pillow for additional support.
U-Shaped: are designed to cradle your entire body. It supports every part of your body equally, keeps legs and hips parallel, and Keeps neck supported and aligned with back.
Although rather bulky, the U-shape design still offers some level of versatility. In the early stages of pregnancy, you can sleep comfortably on your back and then transition to side sleeping with excellent support for your stomach, back, and knees.
Inflatable Pillows: are typically the largest pregnancy pillows available and are designed to accommodate stomach sleepers. If you’re a lifelong stomach sleeper, having to suddenly change your sleep style on top of the other discomforts associated with pregnancy may be difficult. Inflatable pillows provide full-body cushioning with a hole in the center to fit your baby bump.
Other Styles: Bedding companies can get creative when it comes to the shape of pregnancy pillows, so shoppers may come across unique shapes that don’t fit into any of the above categories. Other shapes include the teardrop, designed as a small, versatile support pillow, and the barbell shape, designed to promote side sleeping.
Pregnancy Pillow Materials
Pregnancy pillows can differ significantly in their composition, including the materials used to make the cover and the interior filling. The type of material used will have an impact on the feel and performance of the pillow.
The filling in the pillow will have an impact on the comfort and quality of your sleep. Following are the different types of material that are filled in a pillow:
Polyester Fiberfill: This is a lofty material made from polyester. It is commonly used as a fill material in larger pregnancy pillows, as it provides soft, yet supportive comfort and ample airflow. Polyester fiberfill is also relatively inexpensive, hypoallergenic, and easy to clean.
Memory Foam: known for its excellent contouring properties. It molds to the curves of the body while providing support. However, some memory foam formulations can stifle airflow and retain heat. For this reason, memory foam is typically reserved for smaller pregnancy pillows like wedges.
Polyfoam: Polyfoam provides contouring and support but tends to be firmer and less conforming than memory foam. This can result in more robust support for the back or stomach.
Microbeads: Smaller pregnancy pillows may be stuffed with microbeads. This material is made from small, round pieces of polystyrene and offers excellent contouring.
Pillow with organic filling: Organic pillows are filled with natural materials like wool, and bamboo. These pillows are environmentally friendly, free from chemicals, and suitable for women who have a dust allergy. The drawback of organic pillows is that they are not easy to clean and lose their original shape after one use.
Cotton: is a breathable natural fiber that is easy to clean. It absorbs moisture and typically feels soft to the touch. Many higher-end pregnancy pillows feature organic cotton covers.
Polyester: is a synthetic fabric that’s highly versatile. Manufacturers can formulate polyester fabrics to have different textures as well as an elastic stretch, a good feature for larger pillow covers.
Velvet: s a type of woven tufted fabric in which the cut threads are evenly distributed, with a short pile, giving it a distinctive soft feel
Best Pregnancy Pillows
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Glebany Memory Foam Pregnancy Pillow
Elover U-Shaped Full Body Maternity Pillow
Chilling Home Pregnancy C-Shaped Body Pillow
Moon Pine U-Shaped Full Body Pillow
Meiz Full Body Pregnancy Pillow
Momcozy U-Shaped Full Body Maternity
Cden U-Shaped Full Body Pillow
Callerpan U-Shaped Detachable Full Body Pillow
Other Tips for Getting Better Sleep While Pregnant
A pregnancy pillow may help you find a comfortable position and fall asleep more easily. However, many other factors impact your sleep quality, including your sleep position, sleep surface, overall sleep hygiene, and the temperature of your room.
Sleep on Your Side: Many doctors recommend that expecting mothers sleep on their left sides, as they consider this sleep position to be the safest during pregnancy.
Keep Your Bedroom Cool: There’s evidence that indicates that sleeping in a cool room can help you fall asleep quickly. Setting your thermostat to around 65 degrees may help you fall asleep faster.
Choose the Right Mattress: While a pillow will help improve your body positioning as you sleep, you’ll still want to ensure that you are sleeping on a supportive mattress. The best mattresses for pregnancy tend to offer excellent pressure relief and a cool sleep surface that help prevent you from overheating during the night.
Focus on Sleep Hygiene: Proper sleep hygiene is one of the most significant ways you can improve your sleep. Establishing a nightly routine that helps you wind down and prepare for sleep may be beneficial for your sleep quality during pregnancy.
Eat small meals: before going to bed as it will help you avoid the problem of heartburn and acid reflux. It is also best to avoid spicy and fatty foods as they can disturb your digestion.
Stay active: exercise during the day and do yoga. The exercise will improve blood circulation in your body and also help you sleep well.
Drink a lot of fluids: during the day, but don’t drink a lot before going to bed as waking up in the middle of the night will disturb your sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pregnancy Pillows
How do I clean a pregnancy pillow?
Some pregnancy pillows can be placed directly into the washing machine, but most come with a removable cover that you take off and wash.
As with any type of bedding, it’s important to consider how easy a pregnancy pillow is to clean before you buy.
Being able to place your entire pillow in the wash will ensure it is cleaned thoroughly, but not all washing machines can accommodate the size of a pregnancy body pillow.
Removable covers are ideal if you have a smaller washing machine.
What kinds of pregnancy pillows are good for allergies?
A pregnancy pillow that promotes airflow and is made from hypoallergenic materials will be the best for allergy sufferers.
If you’re prone to allergies, make sure to find a pregnancy pillow that won’t aggravate the issue.
A cover with a tight weave may help protect your pillow from absorbing allergens.
Cleaning your pillow regularly can also help prevent the buildup of dust mites, pollen, pet dander, and mold.
Note: You can find more information about healthy pregnancies at the American Pregnancy Association: www.americanpregnancy.org