We’ll cut straight to it: sleep can be tough if you’re pregnant. After all, your body is constantly changing and you’re experiencing different-than-usual, shifting hormones that can sometimes make it almost-impossible to get comfortable in bed.
But it’s also essential, for both you and the baby, which means you need to take steps that make it easier to drift off. Fortunately, one simple way is introducing a pregnancy pillow into the bedroom. So, whether you’re going through pregnancy, preparing yourself for motherhood, or looking for ways to support the mums-to-be in your life, read on to discover what maternity pillows are and their benefits.
What is a pregnancy pillow?
Before we delve into the benefits of pregnancy pillows and the reasons to start using one – what exactly are they?
In simple terms, a maternity pillow is specifically sculpted to support and complement your changing body during pregnancy, to make sleep both easier and more comfortable. A lot longer than usual pillows, they’re particularly handy during the latter stages of pregnancy, when it’s sometimes otherwise difficult to find a restful sleeping position.
Why is sleep so important during pregnancy?
Being well-rested is important at the best of times, for physical, cognitive, and emotional wellbeing, but it’s even more crucial when you’re pregnant. Not only are you providing for yourself, but there’s a whole other person that needs the rest!
A lack of quality sleep during pregnancy can lead to:
- A weakened immune system: chronic tiredness can quickly lead to feelings of lethargy and exhaustion, which will inevitably begin to take its toll on your already weakened immune system (it naturally weakens during pregnancy to allow you to grow your baby).
- Gestational diabetes: a lack of quality rest can alter your blood sugar levels, which can lead to gestational diabetes (though, this typically disappears after birth).
- A trickier labour: it’s believed that a lack of sleep during pregnancy can impact the delivery, with tired mums often going through trickier and longer labours.
- Increased chance of a caesarean: women who average less than 6 hours sleep a night increase their odds of requiring a caesarean delivery.
How much sleep do I need during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, you’ll often feel like you need more sleep than usual; typically, around 8-10 hours a night. So, if you’re getting to the early evening and beginning to feel overwhelmed, tired, or even exhausted: don’t worry – it’s natural!
However, on the flipside, it’s also important that you don’t ‘over sleep’ (more than 10 hours a night), especially during your third trimester. So, while you might wish to sleep all weekend, it’s important to get up and stay awake for at least a few hours at a time.
The benefits of maternity pillows
There are several advantages of sleeping with a pregnancy pillow, with the key benefits including:
1. Encourages better sleep
As we’ve already discussed, sleep is crucial during pregnancy, so it’s important to take steps to facilitate better and higher quality rest. Of course, this is easier said than done, and (especially during the latter stages of pregnancy) it can sometimes be difficult to find a comfortable position.
Fortunately, pregnancy pillows offer full-body support, and keep you in position all night long – and, if you do turn slightly, the pillow will adjust with you.
2. Longer sleeping hours
When you introduce a pregnancy pillow, you’ll also enjoy longer, more relaxing, resting periods. As we’ve touched on, maternity demands more sleep, so it’s important to facilitate this with your choice of bedding and pillows.
3. Enhances blood circulation
Once way of enhancing blood circulation is sleeping on your side. However, during pregnancy, this can become increasingly difficult and is often uncomfortable as your belly begins to take shape.
Fortunately, with greater support offered by a pregnancy pillow, you can continue sleeping on your side, opening up your back and hips, and enjoy the benefits of improved circulation.
4. Gives better positioning
As highlighted above, side-sleeping is advised. Conveniently, pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to enhance positioning, securing you so you can drift off in complete comfort, in a pose that suits you and your physical needs. They also offer excellent elevation support, for when you need to raise your feet or prop yourself up during bouts of acid reflux.
5. Alleviates body aches and pains
It’s no secret that during pregnancy, your body goes through a series of changes – both physically and hormonally. And with these changes, it’s only natural to feel some form of discomfort, whether it’s as a result of weight gain, pelvic pain, or aching in your lower back.
However, when sleeping with a pregnancy pillow, you can enjoy complete muscle relaxation with your full body supported – no matter your sleeping position. This lightened load and feeling of weightlessness will make it easier to drift off into a cosy slumber and get the rest you and your baby need.
6. Reduces snoring
Snoring is something we’ve all likely put up with at some point or other, but it’s particularly frustrating when your own heavy breathing keeps you up at night – especially when you’re pregnant. It disrupts your sleep and prevents you from getting quality rest.
Fortunately, you can use a pregnancy pillow to effortlessly find a comfortable position that eliminates or reduces the risk of snoring and stops you waking yourself (and others) up at night.
7. Keeps your heart rate healthy
Relaxation is essential to a healthy heart rate and reduced stress levels, both of which are key for the health of you and your baby. With a comfortable maternity pillow, you can find a position that suits your body, and drift off into a care-free slumber, instead of tossing and turning throughout the night.
8. Helps shorten labour
As we’ve already discussed, sleep is crucial during pregnancy, so it’s important to take steps to facilitate more consistent, high-quality rest. After all, extended sleep will benefit both you and your baby.
However, what you might not realise is that getting your 8-10 hours regularly can make for an easier delivery, with your well-rested body forming the ideal vessel for your baby to enter the world.
9. Postpartum use
Maternity pillows offer great support and comfort during your pregnancy, of course, but don’t get rid of it straight away – they’re just as useful after you’ve given birth!
Not only can you continue to enjoy the full-body support offered by a pregnancy pillow, but you can also use it to help find a comfortable position when breastfeeding. Just prop yourself up and let the pillow support your body as you concentrate on helping your baby latch on.
When to start using a pregnancy pillow?
There’s no specific date in which you should start using a pregnancy pillow; just listen to your body and consider introducing one when regular sleep is becoming a little less comfortable, and changing positions is difficult.
Typically, you’ll begin to see signs of a bump after the first trimester, so expect to experience changes to your body at this point and think about choosing a pregnancy back support pillow that provides ample support and combats your aches, pains, and discomfort.
How to choose the right pregnancy pillow
There are a few things you should consider when choosing a pregnancy back support pillow, from its shape to the size and filling. We’ve outlined your options, to help you choose the right maternity pillow for your pregnancy.
There are a few different styles of maternity pillow for you to choose from, with the different shapes offering varying benefits – often dependent on your typical sleeping position and physical needs:
U - shaped pregnancy pillow
A popular choice among mums-to-be, a U-shaped maternity pillow supports the curves of your body and remains in place throughout the night. Designed to cradle your body between two full-length cushions – with the top offering cosy head support – this style of pillow relieves aching joints and muscles and aligns your spine.
J-shaped pregnancy pillow
A J-shaped maternity pillow is very similar to a U-shaped design, except it’s a lot shorter on one side. They’re particularly useful if your bed is on the small side, or you’re sharing with a partner and don’t have room for a full-body pillow, while offering support for your back and neck.
C-shaped pregnancy pillow
A C-shaped maternity pillow is designed to support your pelvic area, as well as your back and neck. Because of its rounded style, it’s a great option during pregnancy, providing full-body comfort and a place to rest your baby bump.
Wedged pregnancy pillow
Unlike a U-, J-, or C-shaped cushion, a wedged maternity pillow is relatively chunky as opposed to taking on a thin design. They’re often smaller than other types of pregnancy pillow and can be conveniently placed between your knees or under your belly to provide consistent support and comfort as you sleep.
Full-length pregnancy pillow
A full-length maternity pillow is exactly as it sounds: a long, slim cushion that runs the full length of your side-sleeping body to support you throughout the night. They’re extremely forgiving, providing a comfortable resting place for your changing body, arms, and legs, and are great for cuddling. What’s more, a full-length pregnancy pillow can also take on the form of a U-shaped, C-shaped, or J-shaped cushion, so you can take control of the way you sleep.
Just as there are various different types of pillow style to choose from, you also have a selection of fillings to consider. We’ve picked out three of the most popular pregnancy pillow fillings, and outlined their pros and cons.
Polyester fibre filling
One of the more common pillow fillings, synthetic polyester fibres are soft and comfortable, and provide great support all night long.
However, while it is a versatile filling, polyester isn’t particularly breathable and is known to trap heat, so may not be recommended if you suffer from night sweats or overheating.
Memory foam pillow
Memory foam pillows are very popular, as they mould to the shape of your sleeping body, offering weightless support and comfort. They’re especially good at reducing pressure on you and your bump, which is important as you head towards the latter stages of pregnancy.
However, one of the main drawbacks of memory foam is its breathability – it doesn’t allow for regular air flow, so can get quite warm.
Pillow with organic filling
Opting for a natural or sustainable pillow filling ensures you’re adopting environmentally-friendly practices while enjoying cosy comfort each and every night – so you can sleep easy knowing you’re doing your bit for the planet.
For example, a recycled plastic and eucalyptus blend gives you unrivalled softness, cooling breathability, and moisture-wicking as standard, as well as chic luxury every time you lay down or take a break.
Hopefully, you now feel fully equipped to choose a great maternity pillow to help you through your pregnancy. If you’re feeling inspired, explore our full range of luxury bedding, including our pillow for pregnant women, designed for mums-to-be, or discover even more useful articles from our sleep experts over on the Ethical Bedding blog.
Pregnancy pillow FAQs
We’ve answered the most common questions asked by our customers about pregnancy pillows.
Why do regular pillows not work for pregnant women?
Regular pillows might not offer the same level of support as a maternity pillow, so might not be suitable for full-body comfort during pregnancy.
Regular cushions are styled to provide a resting place for your head and neck, whereas pregnancy pillows are designed to combat aches and discomfort from your necks and back to your arms and legs. However, that said, if you’re currently using a regular pillow and finding it useful, feel free to continue.
How are pregnancy pillows and body pillows different?
While similar, there’s a key difference between pregnancy pillows and regular body pillows. Body pillows are simply long, straight pillows for you to cuddle at night, while maternity pillows are contoured and shaped to match the figure of a pregnant body.
Are pregnancy pillows safe for me and my baby bump?
Pregnancy pillows are completely safe for you and your baby bump and are recommended by many healthcare professionals. Benefits include full-body support and all-night comfort.
Can I use a pregnancy pillow as a nursing pillow once my baby is born?
Yes, you can use your pregnancy pillow even after your baby is born. You can prop yourself up against it, or find a suitable, comfortable position for breastfeeding.