The Real Benefits of Pregnancy Pillows: Are They Worth It?
- Bambino Mio
- 01 / 12 / 2023
Find out about pregnancy pillows and whether you could benefit from using one during your pregnancy and in the postnatal period.
Pregnancy pillows are specially-shaped pillows or cushions which help to accommodate and support your body as it changes shape during your pregnancy.
Many women, especially in the later stages of pregnancy, find their back, hips and legs become uncomfortable due to their ligaments softening (1) and this can prevent them from sleeping properly.
Your growing bump can also feel uncomfortable if it’s not supported when you lie on your side, so having something to rest it on can make a world of difference.
The different types of pregnancy pillow
Your body will change shape over the course of your pregnancy and so you might need a pillow that can change with you. Maternity pillows come in different shapes, with some being much more flexible than others.
Here are the different shapes of pregnancy pillows.
U-shaped pregnancy pillow
Many pregnant women choose u-shaped pillows because they can follow the curve of their bodies and don’t “escape” in the night. U-shaped pregnancy pillows are also great for full-body support and can help to prevent you from rolling onto your back during sleep.
C-shaped pregnancy pillow
A c-shaped pregnancy pillow is great for resting your bump on and if you want a smaller option than the u-shaped pillow then this can work really well, especially for your neck, legs and hips.
However, a c-shaped pillow might not support your spine as well as the u-shaped ones.
A wedge pregnancy pillow
You can use a wedge pillow to support your bump, your back or your hips (by placing it between your legs as you lie down to sleep). While it’s very portable and great for targeted support and comfort, you don’t get the full-body support that other pillows can offer you.
Choosing a pregnancy pillow
With so many maternity pillows on the market, you might be wondering which one is right for you. Here’s what you should consider when you’re making up your mind.
Pregnancy pillows come in different sizes so you need to think about whether it’s just your bump you’ll need support for and whether you’re sharing your bed with your partner.
If you’re prone to back pain (2) then a full-length pillow might be best for you. If you simply need a bit of extra support for your belly then a wedge might do the job nicely.
This is mainly down to personal preference, but having a washable cover is important, especially if you’re planning to use it as a nursing pillow after the baby’s born.
You might prefer a memory foam filling or you might like something firmer - or softer. You might even change your mind as your pregnancy progresses and your needs change.
The benefits of pregnancy pillows
They can relieve aches and pains
As you gain weight and change shape during pregnancy, a supportive pillow can support your back, hips and legs, reducing the aches and pains that can dog pregnant women.
If you have pelvic girdle pain in later pregnancy, a pillow can help you to stay comfortable while lying on your side. You can also use your pillow to elevate your lower legs to relieve swelling and ankle discomfort.
Using a pregnancy pillow can aid your circulation while sleeping
Pregnancy pillows make it easier for you to sleep on your side, as this can become more uncomfortable as your belly grows.
Sleeping on your side is better for your circulation, as lying on your back can cause the baby’s weight to press on your inferior vena cava (3), the large vein which carries your blood back to your heart.
You’ll be more likely to sleep well with a maternity pillow
It’s difficult to sleep if you’re uncomfortable, so if your pillow makes you comfortable and gives you something to snuggle into, you’ll fall asleep after and (hopefully) sleep more deeply.
Getting enough sleep during pregnancy is important to your physical and mental health, so anything that helps you to drop off and stay dropped off (ahem) is invaluable.
You can use your pregnancy pillow after the baby’s born, too
You don’t have to pack away your maternity pillow after your baby arrives as it can find a new purpose as a nursing pillow. Later on, when your baby’s bigger and much more mobile, they can use your pregnancy pillow themselves.
How much does a pregnancy pillow cost?
Pregnancy pillows vary quite a bit in cost, with some being priced at $40-50, others costing more than $190 and mid-range pillows being around $80 or so.
You might think that $80 or more is a lot, but your pregnancy pillow will be worth it if it helps you to sleep and rest comfortably. If you use it again to help you feed your baby, or during a subsequent pregnancy, then your maternity pillow is a wise investment indeed.
When can I start using a pregnancy pillow?
You can start to use your maternity pillow as soon as you like. Most women find their pillow is especially handy in the last trimester, but you can start cuddling it whenever you want.
Won’t a regular pillow work just as well as a pregnancy pillow?
It might do, but only if you don’t need a lot of support. Using a regular bed pillow won’t offer you the all-round hip and spine support you may need in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Can my partner sleep in the bed with me and my pillow?
Of course! Things might get a bit snug towards the end, but as long as you’re both happy, you should all be able to cuddle together!
Citations and References
(1) National Health Service (NHS). ‘Pregnancy-related Pelvic Girdle Pain.’ 2017. Web. www.berkshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/media/168315/pelvic_girdle_leaflet.pdf\(2) Johns Hopkins Medicine. ‘Conditions and Diseases. Back Pain in Pregnancy.’ Web. www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/back-pain-in-pregnancy
(3) Journal of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy (POGP). ‘Supine Lying During Pregnancy.’ 2018. Web. pogp.csp.org.uk/sites/default/files/journal/2018-08/15_14301043.pdf