Pregnancy people have specific needs—think maternity clothing, such as bump-friendly leggings and dresses, maternity underwear, and, of course, the best pregnancy pillows for a good night’s rest. Even before that bump starts to show, restful z’s while expecting become fewer and far between; unfortunately, heartburn, aching hips, sore backs, and restless leg syndrome kick in all too soon, lasting all ten months for some. The good news? A pregnancy pillow can help.
What are the benefits of a pregnancy pillow?
A pregnancy pillow can help alleviate some of the most common discomforts and encourage a sound slumber for pregnant people; unlike regular pillows, these pillows are made with full-body support in mind. “The purpose of pregnancy pillows is to allow your body to be properly supported for comfort, restful sleep, reduce pain and swelling, and maintain good blood flow,” Elizabeth Stroot, PT, a physical therapist and member of the Lansinoh Clinical Advisory Network, tells Glamour.
Additionally, they help you avoid lying flat on your back, which can compromise blood flow to the uterus. (Sorry, back sleepers.) “An enlarged pregnant uterus can compress the aorta and vena cava which can result in the decreased blood flow described,” explains Tamika K. Cross, MD, OBGYN and Medical Advisor for pH-D Feminine Health.
In fact, the right pillow can benefit the entire body beyond a growing bump, helping you cope as the body changes over the course of pregnancy. Depending on your sleeping style and needs, various pregnancy pillow sizes and shapes—like a C-shape, U-shape, wedge, or side-sleeping design—can help support your baby bump when you’re sleeping on your side, cushion your knees to decompress your lower back, hips, and pelvis, and elevate your head to make breathing easier. Plus, “some women find that elevating the head, neck, and shoulders can relieve some heartburn-like symptoms,” Dr. Stroot says.
How to choose the best pregnancy pillow
Determining the best pregnancy pillow for you comes down to personal preference. “[It’s] no different from choosing a pillow for head and neck support,” says Dr. Stroot. “The key is to find the best pillow for you and not feel like you need to limit yourself to one type. Pick what keeps you in the most comfortable position, with the least impact on quality of sleep when rolling and turning over.”
When it comes to materials, you can choose between memory foam, organic cotton, hypoallergenic textiles, or breathable, cooling fabrics if you run hot. (Pro tip: A removable cover you can clean, such as a machine-washable cotton cover, can be clutch. Just remember to toss your machine-washable cover into the washing machine alongside the usual sheets and pillowcases, and you’ll be golden.)
When should you start using a pregnancy pillow?
There’s no right time to start using a pregnancy pillow, although the second trimester is the most common. “The average is around 20 weeks when your uterus is larger,” Dr. Cross says, noting that some pregnant women use them in the first trimester—while others never do.