Especially if you’ve never used a pregnancy pillow before, it can be difficult to know where to start when choosing one. In the guide below, we’ll cover what a pregnancy pillow is, why you might need one and what you should look for in a pregnancy pillow.
What is a Pregnancy Pillow?
Pregnant bodies have different needs than other bodies. The weight of your growing belly puts strain on your back and joints. As your belly grows, it can also be difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position, especially considering pregnant women are instructed to sleep on their sides for safety.
Pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to support a pregnant body. While some women find relief with regular bed pillows, many feel they don’t provide enough support. And considering you might need extra cushioning in multiple areas—your abdomen, your back, your hips—it may just not be practical to stuff multiple small pillows around yourself every night. Many pregnancy pillows support your entire body and are firm enough to lift specific areas if needed.
Do I need a Pregnancy Pillow to Help Me Sleep?
Some women make it through pregnancy without a pregnancy pillow, but many find they provide much-needed comfort. Considering how exhausting pregnancy can be, not to mention the need to rest before the little one arrives, it stands to reason that anything that helps you get better sleep during this time is a good investment.
There are a few specific reasons why you might consider purchasing a pregnancy pillow:
- You have aches and pains: The extra weight on your body combined with weakening abdominal muscles and loosening ligaments makes for unique aches and pains during pregnancy. Many women experience pain in the lower back, hips, abdomen and sometimes legs. A pregnancy pillow can provide support to painful areas and make laying down much more comfortable. Rest can also be vital for finding relief from specific types of pregnancy-related pain, like sciatic nerve pain or round ligament pain.
- You wake up frequently: You may not have many specific aches and pains but just can’t seem to find a comfortable sleeping position as your belly grows. If you find yourself waking up frequently during the night, give a pregnancy pillow a try. You may find it’s just what you need to sleep more soundly.
- You’re a back sleeper: The safest sleep position during pregnancy is on your side, preferably your left side. This position ensures a good flow of blood and nutrients to your growing baby. Sleeping on your back is not recommended. That’s because the weight of your growing uterus can compress your inferior vena cava, which can reduce blood flow to your baby. If you’re used to sleeping on your back, a pregnancy pillow can help keep you comfortably in a side position.
What should I Look for in a Pregnancy Pillow?
There’s a great deal to consider when choosing a pregnancy pillow. Think about how you’d like to use your pillow and where you need support. Then read on to learn more about different styles, materials and other features.
Shape & Style
Pregnancy pillows come in a variety of shapes and styles for every need and preference. Some provide full-body support, while others are made to target certain areas. Full body pillows, like U- and C-shaped options, can simultaneously provide comfort to the back, hips and abdomen while also replacing the need for a separate pillow. They also tend to be the priciest and take up the most space. Smaller pillows, like wedges, can provide relief to a certain area and are more compact.
- U-shaped: U-shaped pillows run the length of your body and are designed to cradle both sides of your body and your head. In the early days of pregnancy, many women find these comfortably prop them so they can sleep on their backs. Once it’s time to flip to your side, U-shaped pillows create a comfortable sandwich of support.
- Wedges: These are smaller than the other two shapes and are designed to prop a single area that needs extra support. Many women use it under their bellies or lower backs. It can also be helpful to prevent you from rolling onto your back while sleeping.
- C-shaped: These pillows are as long as your body and can be configured in different ways. Either hug the long side or use it to support your back as you tuck one of the short ends between your legs. You can put your regular pillow in the closet as this pillow provides head support as well.
- Inflatable: Inflatable pillows tend to be large and are usually designed for stomach sleepers. They have a hole in the middle to accommodate your baby bump while you stretch out on your stomach.
Support & Versatility
Similar to regular pillows, pregnancy pillows have different firmness and support options. A plush pillow might be a good fit if you’re just after added comfort, while a firmer one might help alleviate back and hip pain. The amount of support a pillow provides also depends on shape. Full-body pillows provide support to multiple parts of the body but tend to be softer. Smaller pillows like wedges are typically firmer and can be used to target a specific area.
You’ll also want to consider how you want to use your pillow as some are more versatile than others. Wedge pillows can provide great back support while sitting. Body pillows also serve multiple purposes. You can use them to prop yourself up in bed or even as a nursing pillow once your baby is born.
Materials – Pregnancy pillows tend to differ in the fill and cover materials used. The most common include:
- Poly Fiber: Poly fiber filling is made from polyester and is known for its good airflow and fluffy feel. It’s most commonly used in full-body pillows and makes for a soft, pliable experience. It’s also machine-washable and can be used to achieve a variety of firmness levels.
- Memory Foam: Memory foam has excellent contouring properties, so pregnancy pillows made with it will conform easily to your body. Memory foam tends to feel less firm than other fill materials, but it’s also very responsive as you change positions. Memory foam is most often found in smaller pillows, like wedge or knee pillows, but is sometimes used in body pillows, too.
- Microbeads: Microbeads are made from tiny balls of polystyrene and pillows filled with them tend to be very conforming. They tend to be used in smaller pregnancy pillows.
- High-Density Foam: Normally found in wedge pillows, high-density foam is probably the firmest fill option you’ll find. It’s great for propping areas that need extra support, like your growing belly.
- Cotton: Cotton is a soft, breathable fabric, which can be a great fit if pregnancy is making you run hot. Some prefer sleeping on a natural fiber, and you can even find pregnancy pillows with organic cotton covers. The main drawback is that it’s not moisture-wicking.
- Polyester: Polyester is very durable and comes in a variety of textures. They can also be stretchy, which may make it easier to take the cover off and put it back on again.
Considering you’re probably going to spend a lot of time with your pregnancy pillow, you’ll want to be able to clean it once in a while. Many pregnancy pillows come with removable covers that are machine-washable, while others allow you to put the whole pillow in the wash. Washable covers can be great, but they’re sometimes difficult to remove and put back on. It might be easier to throw the whole pillow in the wash, but if you have a full-body pillow and a small washer, this might not be an option. Just be sure to consider ease of cleaning when choosing a pregnancy pillow.
Warranty and Return Policy
It may be difficult to decide if a specific pregnancy pillow is right for you without trying it out. That’s why it’s important to look into trial periods and return policies. Most pregnancy pillows come with a 30-day return window, but be sure to check into the specifics as some require pillows to remain unused and in original packaging. That may mean you need to try out your pillow through the plastic packaging.
Many pregnancy pillows also come with a 30 to 90-day limited warranty, meaning that if the pillow comes damaged, you’ll be able to return it at no cost.