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What Is A Pregnancy Pillow And Do You Need One?

  • Nicole Arzt, LMFT
  • Posted On: May 23, 2023

There’s no experience quite like pregnancy. The growing belly! Those adorable kicks! All those strange ice cream and chip combinations! Those nine months can be a turbulent, exciting time for you and your entire family. It can also be quite uncomfortable. Then throw all the planning on top like what you'll wear and All baby shower food ideas as you plan for your big day.

It’s no secret that people lament about the sleep deprivation that comes from having a newborn. How many times have you heard, get your sleep now! Most expectant moms brace themselves for that lack of shut-eye. 

However, they often feel surprised by the sleep disruptions that can emerge during pregnancy. From excess fatigue and heartburn to insomnia and constant bathroom runs, sleep can become a frustrating challenge. A pregnancy pillow can help mitigate some of this discomfort. Let’s get into what they are, how they help, and how to find the right one.

What Is Pregnancy Pillow
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Africa Studio

WHAT IS A PREGNANCY PILLOW?

Sleep changes when you’re pregnant. You should avoid sleeping directly on your back or your stomach. Instead, the American Pregnancy Association recommends sleeping on your side, specifically on the left side. This position enhances blood flow, which moves essential nutrients to the placenta.  

This position can be an adjustment for many women. A pregnancy pillow is specifically and uniquely created for the changing pregnant body. 

These pillows aim to offer full-body support to increase your comfort. You can benefit from them during all stages of pregnancy. However, they tend to be most helpful in the third trimester, when sleeping normally feels impossible. 

WHAT ARE THE OTHER BENEFITS?

Healthy, sound sleep is essential for the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Sleep strengthens your immune system and regulates your growth hormone levels. Similarly, a lack of sleep can result in birth complications.

Chances are, your usual pillow just won’t do the trick. Pregnancy pillows maximize comfort while sleeping. Many women experience swallowing and inflammation during this time. These pillows remove the stress and pressure and allow you to rest.

Additionally, these pillows can also be beneficial after giving birth. Women who have c-sections may need cushioning and comfort while healing. Furthermore, breastfeeding mothers can use these pillows for supporting their newborn to latch properly.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS?

A simple online search for a pregnancy pillow yields over thirty million results! That said, there are five significant types of pillows to consider.

Body Pillow

Not just for pregnant women, body pillows look just like extra long pillows. They are meant for cuddling, as they do provide alignment support and pressure point relief. They can reduce the tossing and turning you may experience in the middle of the night. 

Of all pregnancy pillows, these tend to be the cheapest, and you can also use them long-term. However, they don’t offer significant back or hip support. 

Body Pillow
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: tsarev igor

“C” Shape Pillow

The “C” shape pillow provides comfort for the head, neck, back, and pelvic area. If you’re struggling with pelvic tension, this pillow offers relief throughout the night. It’s also optimal for larger women, as the open-ended design permits you to use the pillow various ways.

That said, “C” shape pillows may not be best if you move around in your sleep. Turning over and changing sides requires you to adjust the pillow- this can quickly become a hassle.

“J” Shape Pillow

The “J” shape pillow looks like the letter, J. It also provides head, neck, and back support. It’s a great option for smaller women, women in smaller beds, or women who like to snuggle with their partners. 

Some women use their pillows for sitting and reclining. However, the “J” shape pillow doesn’t offer as much support and versatility in these positions. 

“U” Shape Pillow

The “U” shape pillow is similar to the “J” shape, but it has an additional side. This pillow aims to offer full-body support, all the way from the head down the ankles. Traditional back-sleepers and people who move around in the night usually find this pillow to be the most comfortable. 

That said, this pillow is the largest pregnancy pillow. It tends to be the most expensive type. If you have a smaller bed, note that this pillow can seem like it takes up the entire mattress!

Wedge Pillow

The wedge pillow supports and props your torso. These versatile pillows can be used while sleeping, but you can also use them while sitting or lounging. They’re small and portable enough to transport wherever you go.

These pillows provide the least body support. However, they can be an excellent supplement for other pillows or for having a back-up when traveling. 

Wedge Pregnancy Pillow
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: MVelishchuk

HOW DO I CHOOSE?

Different pregnancy pillows serve different purposes. Additionally, all women have unique preferences as to what works best for them. It can be a trial-and-error process to determine the right fit.

Cleanliness should be the first consideration. Buy a pillow with a removable, washable cover. It’s normal to sweat during the night when pregnant, so being able to wash the cover is key.

You will also need to examine the different fillings in the pillow. Most people opt for polyester, which is soft and offers complete support. If you’re looking to save money, microbeads or styrofoam are typically cheaper fillings. Finally, some experts recommend therapeutic pillows, which consist of water inside the polyester pouch. 

Also, consider the size of the pillow. How big is your mattress? Do you usually sleep cuddled up to your partner? Do you tend to run extra hot in the evenings? 

You may want to start your search by asking friends and family for recommendations. What pillow did they use? Would they recommend that brand?

Some stores have return policies if you don’t like the pillow. Make sure to check ahead of time to determine if this is the case. 

How Do I Choose A Pregnancy Pillow
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: 5 second Studio

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pregnancy can be hard on both the mind and the body. Make sure that you’re getting the optimal rest you and your baby need each night. 

No matter which kind you choose, a pregnancy pillow provides maximum relief for you to get a better night’s sleep. 

If you're in the planning stages still with your pregnancy, have a look at Bitsy Bug's curated collection of newborn baby girl clothes and newborn boy clothes. Awesome styles and options. 

Nicole Arzt, LMFT

Nicole Arzt, LMFT, author

Nicole Artz is a licensed marriage & family therapist with nearly a decade of experience treating issues related to anxiety and mood disorders, parenting and family dynamics, complex trauma, and substance use disorders. A professional content writer, she has authored hundreds of scholarly articles for mental health professionals, treatment facilities, and nonprofit organizations. Nicole is a regular contributor for MamaMend, Today, Medium, Choose Therapy, and Psychology Today.

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