Do You Need to Buy a Special Pillow for Pregnancy?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation.

When you’re pregnant, it can be tough to get solid sleep for a number of reasons. One major cause of restlessness: As the baby grows—and as you grow—it may get harder to find a comfortable position at night. Could a specialized pregnancy pillow swoop in and save the day (or rather, night)? The answer: maybe.

For stomach-sleepers, the bedtime battles can start as early as the first trimester, when sore breasts can make your usual sleeping position uncomfortable. By the second trimester, if you’re still sleeping on your back, it’s time to shift, since the weight of your expanding midsection can compromise your circulation. And by the third trimester, even if you naturally prefer to sleep on your left side, which is the ideal position during pregnancy, the sheer weight of your bump—combined with the increased laxity in your joints as your body prepares for childbirth—can add up to serious aches and pains. Pillows can offer relief by providing support where you need it, but with so many options out there, it’s hard to know what you truly need to buy to get a good night’s rest.

If you’re just starting out on your hunt for the perfect pregnancy pillow, first try experimenting with extra pillows that you already have around the house. In addition to placing a pillow under your head and neck, try putting one between your knees as you rest on your left side. You can also try placing a pillow under your belly to support its weight and keep everything in line. Still trying to train yourself to stay on your left side throughout the night? A pillow behind your back can serve as a barrier to keep you from turning over as soon as you drift off. Before you invest in a new pillow, it's worth trying those strategies, because you might find that pillows that you already own will do the trick.

If adding extra pillows still doesn’t provide relief, there are a variety of different products that you can buy that are specifically designed for pregnancy. Some women use a long, rectangular body pillow, which can slip beneath their bellies and between their knees. Others prefer small, wedge-like designs that fit under the belly to improve alignment through the hip, legs, and back. You can also buy large, contoured pillows that encircle your whole body, supporting your head, neck, belly, and legs in order to improve your sleeping posture.

To decide what’s best for you, think about how you already sleep and what your challenges are. For instance, if you’re a usual back sleeper, a pillow that goes behind your back might be a good choice. If you don’t usually use many pillows or blankets, a large, contoured design might feel smothering, while a small wedge might be just enough. Talk to friends about what worked for them—in fact, someone might even have one that you could try before you buy, so you can make sure that you like it.

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