When I got pregnant with my first son, I thought the idea of a pregnancy pillow was ridiculous. I was sleeping just fine. However, as my pregnancy progressed, sleeping with a beach ball essentially attached to my abdomen became more and more difficult. My husband surprised me with a pregnancy pillow, and after one night, I never turned back.
That pillow came back early in my second pregnancy and I wouldn't do a third without it. If you are wondering how to use a pregnancy pillow to maximize sleep, we detail the different pillow styles and the best pregnancy pillow positions to try so that you can get the best sleep!
Pregnancy Pillow Types
Before we jump straight into how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow, it's helpful to know the various types. There are three main styles to choose from — U-shaped, C-shaped, and wedge. You also have the option of using a basic body pillow to get a similar result. As you might guess, these pillows look exactly the way they sound. Here are the key details to know about each:
- U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow: This bedding accessory provides expectant moms with head, belly, and back support. This does take up a lot of space on the bed, so it is best larger sleeping spaces.
- C-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow: This pillow provides less support. Moms can either prioritize their belly or their back, along with their head. However, it also takes up much less space.
- Wedge Pregnancy Pillow: The wedge pillows are the smallest options, and they are designed to prop up any area of your body. This includes your head, belly, back, legs, or feet.
- Body Pillow: This is a long and narrow pillow that can be used under your belly or against your back. It will not provide proper head support, though. Many people already have these bedding accessories in their homes, so if you are hesitant about buying a pregnancy pillow, this can be a good option to try first.
My husband purchased me the Pharmedoc U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow. I loved this product because it can be converted into a C-shaped pillow thanks to a simple zipper. This allowed me to customize my sleep aid as my pregnancy progressed and my needs changed. If you detach the one side, it can be used to prop up your legs or feet. The pillow case also comes off for easy washing!
How to Use a Pregnancy Pillow: 9 Positions for Comfort and Support
Once you've selected the pillow best suited for you and your bed, you need to know how to get the most out of this sleeping accessory! Here's how to use a pregnancy pillow to optimize sleep and the variety of pillow positions that you can choose from to stay comfortable during pregnancy.
U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow
For this pillow, place the "U" upside down on your bed, with your head positioned in the curve. You can then prop your belly onto one side of the pillow. For optimal support, also place the top of the sides of the "U" between your knees.
C-Shaped Pregnancy Pillow
Since the C-shaped pillow can be used to support either the belly or the back, it can be used in two ways. For belly support, place your head in the curve with the side of the "C" facing your belly. Prop your stomach onto the side and then slide the bottom of the "C" between your knees.
Conversely, for back support, place your head in the curve with the side of the "C" laying against your back. Then, slide the bottom of the "C" between your knees.
Wedge Pregnancy Pillow
Wedge pregnancy pillows are extremely versatile bedding accessories. Here's how to use a pregnancy pillow of the wedge variety based on your specific needs:
- For Acid Reflux Relief: Slide it under your normal pillow with the higher end at the head of the bed and the smaller end closer to you. This pregnancy pillow position will keep you at an incline, helping to prevent pregnancy heartburn and indigestion.
- For Stomach Comfort: When you sleep on your side and you are farther along in pregnancy, gravity pulls your belly downwards, which can lead to discomfort. Slipping the smaller side of the wedge pillow under your stomach can help to provide support and prevent this pulling feeling.
- For Pelvis and Leg Support: Your pelvis is likely already feeling uncomfortable, and when you lie down on your side, your legs are no longer aligned properly. Placing the wedge pillow between your knees (with the shorter end situated between them) can put your pelvis in a neutral position and keep your spine aligned properly.
- For Swollen Feet: While sleeping on your back is never recommended during pregnancy, you can use a wedge pillow to prop up your feet (with the higher end farthest away from you) to help direct blood flow back into your legs and diminish swelling in your feet.
Doctors recommend that expectant moms sleep on their left sides throughout their pregnancies. This is to ensure proper blood flow to your baby and to you! By sleeping on your back, stomach, or right side, you risk cutting off the blood supply to your inferior vena cava. This is what routes blood to your growing baby and to your brain!
Body pillows are designed for anyone to use, which means that you might already have one laying around the house. Simply hug the pillow with your belly propped on top. This will not provide head support, but it can be useful for remedying belly pain.
And for those ladies who are back or belly sleepers and struggling to not flip over in the night, you also have the option to place the body pillow against your back. This can inhibit movement during sleep, keeping you in a safe position.
For women who don't like sleeping with a pillow between their legs, another pregnancy pillow option is a J-shaped pillow. Similar to the C-shaped option, this allows you to support your head as well as either your belly or back, but leaves your legs free to stretch out.
Find the Pregnancy Pillow Position Best for You
Throughout those long nine months, your body is changing rapidly, and while most people advise sleeping as much as possible before the baby comes, this can be a difficult task once you get into your third trimester.
Trying out different pregnancy pillow positions can help you find the most comfortable stance for sleep at that time in your pregnancy. Don't be afraid to change things up as your body continues to grow. You may find that what worked at week 28 doesn't cut it at week 35.