When to Start Using Pregnancy Pillow: Its Benefits, Types & more

Pregnancy Pillow – Benefits, Types, and How to Use

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Pregnancy is an exciting and challenging period for a mother-to-be. Those nine-months demands focused care and diligence on the part of the mother to ensure that her baby remains safe and receives all the necessary support and nourishment required to develop.

Video : Pregnancy Pillow – Benefits, Types, and How to Use

As much as the baby needs nourishment internally to grow and be healthy for the delivery, the mother also needs to ensure that the foetus is protected from any external harm. Thus, it is essential for the pregnant woman to be in a safe environment, where she is comfortable and can move around freely.

One crucial aspect that needs attention is the sleeping position of the mother. Partners go through many sleepless nights in order to ensure that the mother does not sleep in an awkward position that could harm the baby.

Regular mattresses are not designed to provide comfort to a pregnant woman, and it may lead to body aches and hinder her sleep. This is where a pregnancy pillow comes in handy.

What Is a Maternity Pillow?

A maternity or a pregnancy pillow is a pillow specially designed to suit and support the changing contours and curves of the body during pregnancy and offer support for various sleeping positions. They are designed to provide support to the entire body and hence are much longer than the usual pillows. A maternity pillow makes sleeping more comfortable during pregnancy. It is beneficial in the later stages of pregnancy when sleeping in a normal position becomes a real challenge.

4 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:

  1. Alleviates body aches and pains: As body weight increases during pregnancy, it puts stress and pressure on the back, hips and legs. It is crucial to rest these body parts, and that is only possible if you are able to sleep in a good position. A pregnancy pillow will provide support and comfort to these parts and ensure proper rest, relieving the aches and pain.
  2. Enhances the circulation of blood: Sleeping on your sides promotes blood circulation, and it is recommended for pregnant women. Sleeping side-ways might be uncomfortable for a pregnant woman due to her growing belly. Owing to its soft cushioning, a pregnancy pillow allows you to sleep comfortably sideways, thereby easing up and promoting the circulation of blood in the body.
  3. Better, more relaxed, and longer sleeping hours: Good rest is the key to a safe pregnancy, and a maternity pillow will allow you to sleep better and for longer hours.
  4. Helpful after delivery: A maternity pillow will be useful even after the baby’s birth as it will help you to put your baby in the right position during breastfeeding, for the baby to learn how to latch properly.

When Can You 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.

Different Types of Pregnancy Pillows & How to Use Them

There are several types of pregnancy pillows, and they come in different shapes and sizes. Each variety of pillow caters to a different set of needs. A maternity pillow should be selected after assessing and understanding the discomfort being faced. Every pregnancy is different, and so are the challenges associated with it. The type of pillow required will differ from case to case. Following are the types of maternity pillows available:

  1. Pregnancy wedge pillow: The pregnancy wedge pillow, also known as a maternity cushion, is the smallest of the pregnancy pillows available. This pillow can be used during or post-pregnancy. A round wedge pillow and a triangular wedge pillow are two types of pregnancy wedge pillows available.

pregnancy wedge pillow

How to use it:

It can be placed under the tummy or behind the back to provide the necessary support while sleeping on your stomach or sideways. The pillow can also be used as your standard pillow. It will assist in relieving heartburn and reflux as it raises your head above average body height.

  1. Full-length pregnancy pillow: These pregnancy pillows are long and provide a cushion to the entire body. These pillows offer comfort to the arms and legs and support the tummy. While this type of pillow is suitable to hug and embrace, it does not provide a significant amount of support to the back. Straight full-length pregnancy pillows and flexible full-length pregnancy pillows are two types of pregnancy pillows.

full-length pregnancy pillow

How to use it:

The full-length pregnancy pillows are designed to hug and cuddle. Unlike other pregnancy pillows, they cannot be placed under the tummy or behind the back. You can wrap your arms and legs around the pillow by placing your belly at the centre of the pillow.

  1. Total body pregnancy pillows: With a height of five to six inches, these pillows are perfect for women of any height. It is ideal to be used during the second trimester as it provides immense support to the spine and helps reduce hip and back pain.

There are two types of total body pillows:

C-shaped pillow: As the name indicates, the pillow is shaped like the letter C and provides support to the head, tummy, legs and back.

total body C-shaped pillow

How to use it: This pillow is useful for those who like to sleep in a riding position. You can place your head on the top of the pillow and slide your back into the curve.

U-shaped pillow: The U-shaped pregnancy pillow is suitable for those who prefer sleeping on their back but cannot sleep in this position due to an increase in their belly size. It offers support to the entire body, including the tummy and the back.

total body U-shaped pillowHow to use it: Similar to C shaped pillows, the top of a U shaped pillow can be used to rest the head and slide your body into the pillow. You can wrap your legs around one of the sides and sleep.

The pregnancy sleeping pillow is a convenient and useful accessory for women having body aches and back pains due to which getting a good night’s sleep becomes challenging.

How to Choose the Right Pregnancy Pillow

Different pregnancy pillows serve different purposes; hence, a pregnancy pillow can be picked only after you have ascertained your requirements. Following are the points you need to analyse before buying your pregnancy pillow.

  1. 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.

  1. Identify the filling in the pillow:

Pillows are generally filled with different materials which have their own set of characteristics. 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 fibre filling: One of the most popular fillings for a pillow, polyester fibre is soft and provides good support to the body. The degree of firmness of the pillow can be altered by changing the quantity of fibre filling. While it is a very versatile and useful material, it tends to absorb heat and trap dust and bacteria and is not recommended for those who have dust allergies. It has a short lifespan as it lasts for about two years only.
  • Styrofoam ball filling: Cheaper than other variety of pillows, styrofoam balls are the tiny white balls that are also filled in bean bags. Pillows made up of this material are light and also filled with air, allowing them to adapt to your body contours easily to provide extra support and cushioning. However, these pillows are not suitable for extended sleep.
  • Filling of microbeads: These are small, lightweight balls that feel like sand inside the pillow. Very soft and smooth, one can move around these pillows easily and quickly.
  • Memory foam pillow: Memory foam pillows are firm and take the shape of your body when slept on. They provide good support to the body and reduce body aches and pains.
  • Buckwheat filled pillow: These pillows are filled with buckwheat hulls that are stuffed in a cotton bag. Buckwheat pillows are organic and decrease the chances of allergies and heat build-up. Buckwheat pillows are durable and can be used for more than a decade.
  • Therapeutic pillow: Experts highly recommended this pillow for pregnant women. The pillow is made up of water which is present inside the polyester pouch. This construction provides excellent support to the head and helps in cases of neck pain.
  • Pillow with organic filling: Organic pillows are filled with natural materials like wool, bamboo, fibre, and kapok. 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.

3. Size of the pillow:

A bigger pillow will occupy more bed space and will be heavier to lift. A big pillow is suitable for those who keep moving their head around while asleep.

4. Noise and smell of the pillow:

Some pillows make an awkward noise when you move around on them. Pillows filled with styrofoam should be avoided if you are a light sleeper as they will make a noise. Also, pillows that are not organic will smell of chemicals. It is essential to evaluate these two characteristics as they will affect you on a daily basis.

5. The degree of softness of the pillow:

Different people prefer different levels of firmness in a pillow. Soft pillows should be avoided as they may not provide proper support. Firm pillows are better when it comes to giving support to the head and the body.

6. Hypoallergenic pillows:

Hypoallergenic pillows are ideal for those who are susceptible to allergies from dust. It is essential to keep allergies at bay during pregnancy, and these pillows will help achieve that.

7. Pillows to match body type and sleeping position:

Selection of pregnancy pillow also depends on the type of body and preferred sleeping position. Listed below are some of the body type and sleeping position combinations with the ideal pillow choice:

  • Pillows for plus-sized women: C-shaped pillows are ideal for plus-sized women. The design of the pillow will allow you to fit in comfortably.
  • Petite women: Total petite body pillows are perfect for short women.
  • Pillow for those who sleep on the sides: There are many different types of pillows for those who sleep side-ways.
  • Pillows for back sleepers: While it is better not to sleep on the back, if you do, you can use the snoogle pregnancy pillow is a good pregnancy pillow to opt for. The snoogle supports the head, neck, back, hips, and belly by taking the shape of the pregnant woman’s body and provides comfort.
  • Pillow for those who sleep on the stomach: Sleeping on the stomach can cause body aches and snoring problems. A shredded memory foam pillow or bamboo pillow is the best option for those who like sleeping on their stomach.
  • Pillow for women pregnant with twins: U-shaped pillows are the best type of pillows for women pregnant with twins as the tummy is bigger and a larger pillow will offer better support.

Selecting the right pregnancy pillow might be tricky at times as it needs careful assessment of multiple factors. After using a pillow, if you feel uncomfortable, you should discontinue its use immediately.

Tips to Improve Sleep 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 during the day by exercising and doing 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.


Why Do Regular Pillows Not Work for Pregnant Women?

normal pillow inadequate support

Regular pillows might not provide the necessary support to a pregnant woman as they are not designed to do that. Regular pillows might slide around as you move in your sleep, causing discomfort and body aches. However, if you are used to your pillow and comfortable using it during pregnancy, then you should continue using it.

How Are Pregnancy Pillows and Body Pillows Different?

Pregnancy pillows are designed specifically to give support to the changing body shape and size of pregnant women―they have the necessary curves and contours to match the shape of a pregnant woman. On the other hand, body pillows are long and straight. While some pregnant women feel comfortable using a body pillow, the others prefer pregnancy pillows because of their comforting and adapting shape.

While a pillow might seem insignificant in the larger scheme of things for a pregnant woman, it is an essential accessory that can provide better comfort and support. It is crucial to select the right kind of pillow after assessing the needs of the mother. The right pillow will also help in reducing body and backache, which is caused due to an increase in weight during pregnancy. Above all, it will ensure that the mother-to-be sleeps comfortably, which is essential for the well-being of the mother and the baby.

Resources & References: Medical News Today, WebMD

Also Read: Sleeping on Back During Pregnancy

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