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How To Use a Pregnancy Pillow For Better Sleep

How To Use a Pregnancy Pillow For Better Sleep

Pregnancy pillows can actually help just about anyone get a better night’s sleep, not just pregnant women.

In this post, we explain all the different types of pregnancy pillows (who knew there were so many?) and how to use them for a better night's sleep. If you have issues getting comfortable at night, a pregnancy pillow might be the perfect option for you.

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Introduction To Sleeping While Pregnant

We’ve all heard the myths about sleeping while pregnant. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who manage to get comfortable enough for some good shut-eye, you’re woken up every couple of hours to pee anyway. Studies show that 78% of pregnant women have difficulty sleeping. Between heartburn, nausea, and cramping, this is one of the times the body needs sleep the most — and when it can be hardest.

Sleeping Positions For Pregnant Women

Turns out there are some specific rules when it comes to sleeping for pregnant women. Let’s take a look at some do’s and don’ts when it comes to sleeping positions for pregnant women.

How Not To Sleep While Pregnant

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for obvious reasons. Doctors especially advise against laying on your stomach once your belly pops out and you begin to show. Sleeping on your back is another no-go, as it can lead to your abdomen resting on your intestines and major blood vessels, which can cause trouble breathing, backaches, and low blood pressure, all of which can be bad for your baby.

The Best Way To Sleep While Pregnant

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) recommends sleeping on your side, specifically your left side. Sleeping on your right side can put extra pressure on your liver, especially when your body is sacrificing room for your organs to accommodate your baby. Sleeping on your left will avoid this issue, and is also better for circulation, which means more blood flow for the baby, too.

how to use pregnancy pillow for better sleep
A look at the PharMeDoc Full-Body Pregnancy Pillow

We know you might feel restless when you have to sleep on the same side all night, every night. But sleeping on side pregnancy is really the best thing you can do to keep yourself and your baby safe.

Pregnancy (and even postpartum) can lead to increased body temperature and night sweats through the night, so be sure to check out our list of Best Mattresses for Hot Flashes, Night Sweats, and Menopause.

What Is A Pregnancy Pillow?

A pregnancy pillow, otherwise known as a maternity pillow, is specially designed to provide support or pressure relief to the whole body — not just the head and neck. As such, they tend to be larger than your average pillow, and there are multiple shapes and sizes in order to accommodate a woman’s changing body during the different stages of her pregnancy.

Different Types Of Pregnancy Pillows

U Shaped Pregnancy Pillow

“U” shape. U-shaped pillows are great to use to support your whole body, meaning head, neck, back, belly, knees, and even ankles. It’s best for women who are most used to sleeping on their backs at night, or women who find themselves tossing and turning a lot at night since you don’t need to flip the shape with you or readjust the headrest part.

Because of this, a U shaped body pillow is a great option for both finicky sleepers and pregnancy. The U-shaped pillow is typically the most expensive pregnancy pillow you can get because it’s so big. If you share a full or maybe even a queen size bed with your partner, you might want to look at the other options on this list so that it doesn’t take up the whole mattress.

How to sleep with this pillow – To use a U shaped pregnancy pillow, you flip it so that the “U” is upside down. Your feet should remain in between the opening of the pillow while your head should rest on the bottom of the “U.”

C Shaped Pregnancy Pillow

C-shaped pillows provide support and comfort for the head, neck, back, and pelvic area. They are awesome for relieving any pelvic tension and reducing water retention in the legs and ankles. 

These aren’t the best pillows for combo sleepers who like to switch positions or toss and turn a lot during the night, because you will need to adjust the pillow with you when you change sides. The C-shaped pillow is one of the best options for plus-sized women because the open-sided design allows for the pillow to be used in a variety of ways and shapes.

How to sleep with this pillow – Most women use a C-shaped pillow by allowing the curved part to cradle their back, with the opening of the “C” near their belly.

J Shaped Pregnancy Pillow

This one can also be referred to as a candy cane-shaped pillow. It’s great for head, neck, and back support. The J-shape is similar to the U-shaped pregnancy pillow in how it’s used, only it’s smaller and missing the extra side. This makes it a better option for smaller beds, or for couples who like to cuddle. 

The missing side also makes this pillow less versatile when it comes to using it while sitting, so if you planned on using it for that, you might want to go for the U-shaped body pillow instead. 

How to use – When it’s time for bed, there are a few ways to set up your J-shaped pillow. You can decide whether you prefer the long side against your belly or your back or whether you prefer the curved part to go underneath your head or between your legs.

Wedge Shaped Pregnancy Pillow

The wedge-shaped pillow allows you to prop your torso up while sitting or sleeping, or you can use them under a pregnant belly. These are nice for those that get too hot or too cold while they sleep because you can place a heating pad or cooling pack between you and the wedge. Sleeping propped up can also help those who suffer from heartburn, pregnant or not. 

How to sleep with it – Wedge-shaped pillows are small and easily portable as well. They’re super simple to use: just prop one underneath your belly when sleeping on your side during pregnancy.

Body Pillow Shape

These are basically normal pillows, or U shaped body pillows, just longer. They’re great to cuddle, but don’t provide much back or hip support. Body pillows are the more popular pillows for those who actually aren’t pregnant, but like to use them to sleep more comfortably. They also tend to be the most inexpensive type of pregnancy pillow.

How to sleep with this pregnancy pillow – You can use a body pillow however you’d like, whether you want to hug it as you sleep, arrange it to support your belly, or squeeze it in between your legs.

Keep in mind, these pregnancy pillows aren’t solely for pregnant women. If you have back pain or knee issues and have trouble getting comfortable at night, you might want to try one of these pregnancy pillows.  You can also use them while sitting in a chair, sitting in bed, or even in the car during long drives.

Bonus: Don’t ditch the pillow once the baby arrives — they’re great for postpartum recovery as well.

Adjustable Base For Pregnancy

If you’re spending a lot of time in bed during your pregnancy, you might also want to consider buying an adjustable bed base. You can change the height of the head and foot of the bed to your preference, and some of these bases even come with extra features that are ideal for expecting moms (for example, anti-snoring and multiple different massage modes).

Tips for Better Sleep During Pregnancy

A great pregnancy pillow is the first step to more comfortable sleep, but there are other things you can do to catch Zs before baby arrives:

  • Exercise during the day to reduce nighttime cramping, if deemed safe by an expert
  • Cut back on fluids a few hours before bed to avoid waking up to use the bathroom
  • Snack on bland and filling foods like rice and avoid spicy ones to reduce the likelihood of nighttime nausea and heartburn
  • Ease yourself into sleep by doing something comforting before bed, like having a warm shower or stretching
  • Where possible, take short naps during the day to make up for sleep you’re losing at night
  • Avoid screen time before bed and consider reading a book or meditating instead (See more Self-Care Tips Before Bedtime)
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before opting for a supplement or medication during pregnancy

How Pregnancy Can Affect Sleep

Increases Stress

During pregnancy, you’ll find yourself worrying about the many unknowns that come along with your new arrival. Whether you’re anxious about delivering your baby, bringing him or her home, or adjusting to life as a parent, these stressful thoughts can disrupt your sleep.

Hormones 

Pregnancy causes your body to produce increased levels of hormones, some of which can have adverse effects on your sleeping patterns. While some hormones can cause you to feel sleepy during the day, others can cause you to use the bathroom frequently and interrupt your sleep.

Heartburn

Many expecting moms experience heartburn at some point in their pregnancy. When it happens at night, it can keep you up and cause a great deal of discomfort as you lie in bed.

Physical Uncomfort 

As your new baby continues to grow and takes up more space in your belly, you’ll find it harder to get comfortable — both at night and during the day. This type of discomfort can interrupt your sleep, but using a body pillow for pregnancy is a smart way to get comfy and get some rest.