Whether you’re newly pregnant or months into your pregnancy, finding a comfortable sleeping position may be tricky. Let’s talk about how sleeping with a pregnancy pillow can help. I’ll show you how to use a pregnancy pillow (including different sleeping positions), the benefits of a pregnancy pillow, and how to choose the best one for your needs.
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What is a pregnancy or maternity pillow? anchor
A pregnancy pillow, or maternity pillow, is a pillow designed to help you sleep comfortably as your body changes and grows during pregnancy. Depending on its design, a maternity pillow can support your belly, back, hips, legs, neck, and head. While there are many different shapes and styles of these pillows, they share the same purpose: to make sleep as comfortable as possible while you’re pregnant.
What are the benefits of a pregnancy or maternity pillow?anchor
The changes to your body during pregnancy can make sleep uncomfortable. But, sleep is vital to your health and the health of your new baby. Using a maternity pillow can help relieve your:
Neck and shoulder pain
Pregnancy rhinitis (nasal congestion)
Using a pregnancy pillow also makes it easier to sleep on your side during pregnancy which can help with circulation and breathing. Late in your pregnancy, side sleeping can be the most comfortable, but it can also be difficult to stay in the same position all night without some help from a pillow.
When should I start using a pregnancy or maternity pillow?anchor
Whenever you feel like you could use a little extra comfort or support! If you’re struggling to get comfortable during sleep, it may be a good time to start using a pregnancy pillow.
How do I choose a pregnancy pillow?anchor
Here are some things to consider when you’re looking for a pregnancy pillow:
Size. Will you be comfortable with a full size pillow or would a smaller option be a better fit?
Material. Is it breathable? Is it soft? Is it noisy? Is it easy to clean?
Support. Do you want the full body support of a U shape pregnancy pillow? Do you need a pregnancy wedge pillow to help a specific area of your body?
Cost. Is budget a factor? Do you want a traditional pregnancy pillow or an alternative?
Versatility. Do you want a pillow that can be used for other things after your pregnancy?
Here are some of my favorite maternity pillows (You can find links to all my favorites below.).
Boppy Total Body: This is a “C” shaped pillow that allows your full body to be supported. It lays on one side of you, so you can choose if your belly or back is more supported based on the pillow position.
Frida Mom Adjustable Pregnancy Pillow: This pregnancy pillow can be shaped into different positions to give you support wherever you need it. It’s a great option if you can’t decide which shape is best for your needs. Another bonus is that the pillow filling is designed to be cooling.
Momcozy U Shape: This is a “U” shaped pillow with a hook on one side of the “U” that can go between your legs. This is perfect if you are looking for full-body support and want something to keep you on your side and support your belly at the same time.
Pharmedoc Wedge: A wedge pillow is lower cost and takes up less space than a full-body pregnancy pillow. This one is made of memory foam and is perfect if you need a pillow to support just one area of your body.
Boppy Wedge: This wedge pillow is smaller in size and helpful for targeting specific areas of discomfort. It’s a great option if you need a pillow that can travel with you anywhere.
If you’re feeling unsure about the cost or versatility of a maternity pillow, there are other pillows you can try to help you get more comfortable.
How do I sleep with a pregnancy or maternity pillow? anchor
Deciding how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow will depend on which style you use and what feels most comfortable for your changing body. Let’s talk about the different options and pregnancy pillow sleeping positions:
Using a U shape pregnancy pillowanchor
Position the pillow to make an upside-down U. Lay in the middle of the upside down U so your head and neck are supported and the sides surround you. You can place the side of the pillow under your belly and/or between your legs to relieve pressure on your belly, hips, and back. A U shape pillow can be a great option to promote side sleeping for someone who usually prefers sleeping on their back.
Using a C shape pregnancy pillowanchor
You can use a C shape pregnancy pillow by placing the long side either in front of your belly or behind your back. With the long side in front of you, you will primarily support your belly, as well as your head, neck, and hips. With the long side behind you, you will primarily support your back, in addition to your head, neck, and hips.
Using a pregnancy wedge pillowanchor
A pregnancy wedge pillow can be a great option for someone with localized discomfort. A wedge is a smaller option that you can move around as needed. If you’re experiencing hip pain, place the wedge between your upper thighs to alleviate the pressure. Use it under your belly for belly support. Lay it under your head to help with head and neck support or reflux symptoms.
Are there any “wrong” sleeping positions during pregnancy?anchor
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) does recommend trying to avoid sleeping on your back in late pregnancy. The thought is that your growing belly and baby can put pressure on important veins and arteries. This may cause you to experience symptoms of low blood pressure or possibly reduce circulation to your growing baby. BUT, the ACOG reassures that “If you find yourself sleeping on your back in your second or third trimester, don’t panic. Just turn to one side or the other.”
If you’re having a hard time sleeping on your side or finding a comfortable sleeping position, a maternity pillow may help.
Expert tip from my time working as a labor and delivery nurse: If you prefer a more “on your back” position for sleep, you can consider placing a small pillow or maternity wedge pillow under one hip. This is enough to avoid the potential risks of back sleeping late in pregnancy.
Please be sure to check with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your pregnancy.
Can a pregnancy or maternity pillow help with hip pain or back pain? anchor
Yes! Sleeping on your side while pregnant can put pressure on your hips, back, and upper body. A pregnancy pillow can help you to reduce this pressure. Typically placing the pillow between your upper thighs will help with hip pain. Placing the pillow slightly under your hips can create a neutral spine position to help with back pain. It may take a little trial and error to find what works best for your body.
What can I use instead of a pregnancy or maternity pillow?anchor
If you’re experiencing some discomfort when sleeping or laying down but not sure if you want to invest in a pregnancy pillow, here are some alternatives:
If you're only needing support for a specific area, like your belly or hips, one of these options may work great for you. But, for full body support, a maternity pillow often works best.
What can you do with a pregnancy or maternity pillow after your baby arrives?anchor
You may find that it’s still comfortable to sleep with your maternity pillow even after your baby is born. Especially for those who deliver via c-section, continuing to use a pregnancy pillow can provide extra support for getting in and out of bed and promote side sleep (which may be a more comfortable sleeping position during recovery). If you love sleeping with your pregnancy pillow, there’s no reason to stop, even after you’ve fully recovered. But, if you don’t need the support for sleep, there are other uses for a pregnancy pillow.
After your baby is born:
Use it to support your baby during tummy time.
Use it instead of a nursing pillow for feedings. Wrap it around your waist to bring your baby closer to you.
Use it for extra back support as needed.
As your little one gets older:
Use it to snuggle together.
Prop yourselves up during story time.
Build a fort.
Leave it to your toddler’s imagination to decide how to use it.
Safety Tip: Remember that pillows aren’t safe for baby sleep and aren’t recommended for sleep until after age 2.