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Pregnancy is a time spent in joyous anticipation of meeting the precious life that is growing inside you. You may find yourself overwhelmed with a cocktail of emotions and physical changes during this time. Although it is indeed a very special occasion, it comes with a set of challenges.
A study done by the National Sleep Foundation found that 78% of expectant mothers suffer from sleep difficulties, such as body aches and pains.
If you are a fellow sufferer then you have come to the right place. A pregnancy pillow may be the answer to all of your sleep-related woes.
Fortunately, we have compiled this complete guide on how to choose and use a pregnancy pillow to save you the trouble. Read on and find out why we recommend investing in a pregnancy pillow today.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- How Does Pregnancy Affect Sleep?
- Benefits of Using Pregnancy Pillows
- How to Use a Pregnancy Pillow
- What to Look For in a Pregnancy Pillow
- Is There a Right Time to Begin Using a Pregnancy Pillow?
- Recommended Sleeping Positions for Pregnant Women
- Sleeping Positions to Avoid
How Does Pregnancy Affect Sleep?
Pregnancy throws your normal bodily functions out of whack. The immense changes that accompany pregnancy make catching z’s that much harder.
1. Fluctuating Hormones
Hormones control vital bodily processes. Pregnancy causes certain hormone levels to fluctuate. A rise in progesterone levels will make you feel sleepy in the morning. Changes in other hormone levels may result in strange dreams, or rigid muscles which lead to snoring and difficulty sleeping.
Fluctuating hormone levels can cause stomach acids to rise up in your esophagus leading to a painful, burning sensation in your chest and throat. This can keep expectant mothers up at night.
As your pregnancy progresses, pressure from the weight of the growing fetus can also force stomach acids up into your esophagus.
3. Bodily Aches and Pains
The uterus is attached to the spine through a ligament. This ligament is stretched to its limit when your bump grows very big, twenty weeks into your pregnancy. This causes discomfort to your lower back and gives rise to sleepless nights.
Your heavy bump may also cause you to sleep in awkward positions to help distribute the weight so you can minimize any discomfort. This leads to improper alignment of your head and body which results in bodily aches and difficulty breathing.
Do not attempt to lie on your back to solve this.
4. Elevated Stress Levels
As a pregnant woman, thoughts concerning your baby will be on your mind 24/7. You may spend nights wondering if everything will turn out okay. Unfortunately, such thoughts can quickly turn into anxiety and insomnia.
It is important to remember that sleep is crucial for the health of both your and your growing baby.
Benefits of Using Pregnancy Pillows
Using a pregnancy pillow allows you to sleep in your favorite position by supporting your body and keeping you comfortable. It also:
1. Eases Pain
A pregnancy pillow will properly align your body, support your bump, and allow you to sleep in a comfortable position. As a result, it reduces bodily pains.
2. Improves Blood Circulation
Pregnant women are recommended by doctors to sleep sideways as it promotes blood circulation. Unfortunately, the growing weight of the baby bump makes it uncomfortable and painful to sleep in this position.
A pregnancy pillow makes sleeping on your side more comfortable and therefore helps to promote blood circulation.
3. Improves Sleep Quality
Once you can rest in your favorite sleeping position and no longer feel the pains resulting from an unsupported baby bump, you will drift off in no time. Plus the soft cushion of the pregnancy pillow will keep you comfortable and rested for longer.
4. Has a Multipurpose Use
Some pregnancy pillows are manufactured to be used even after you’ve given birth. Not only can you continue to use it to help you sleep more comfortably but it can be also used to position your baby and keep them comfortable while they sleep or breastfeed. Only use pregnancy pillows for babies if the tag on the product permits such use.
How to Use a Pregnancy Pillow
If you were to search for pregnancy pillows online, you’re likely to be overwhelmed by the choice available. These pillows come in so many shapes and sizes, and each shape has its own unique features making it difficult to decide which one is the right one for you. And you’re likely also wondering how to use a pregnancy pillow.
Fortunately, we are here to help you.
In general, pregnancy pillows come in five different shapes and sizes:
The full-length pregnancy pillow is a straight, long and regular looking pillow. It provides support to the head, stomach, and the knees. However, it does not provide back support. You can hug it as you sleep.
Some full-length body pillows can bend to fit the contours of your body but these are generally pricier.
Full-length pregnancy pillows are suitable for you if:
- Sleep sideways
- Don’t change your sleeping position a lot
- The bed is long enough
How to Use it
To sleep with these pillows when pregnant, place the pillow along the length of your body and then roll onto your side and hug the pillow close. Rest your bump on the pillow so that it is supported.
Note that if you move around too much then the bendy version of the full-length body pillow might be more suitable.
A C-shaped pregnancy pillow looks exactly like it sounds. It is smaller in length than a U-shaped pillow so it is ideal if you have a smaller bed.
This pillow provides support to the head, neck, back, and pelvic area. It reduces swelling of the feet and discomfort in the pelvis.
C-shaped pregnancy pillows are suitable for you if:
- Suffer from backaches
- Require full-body support
- Sleep sideways
- Do not change your position too frequently during the night
- Bed is wide
- You are a plus-size woman
One of the drawbacks of this pillow is that you need to flip the pillow if you want to change sides.
How to Use it
To use this pregnancy pillow, roll out the length of the pillow on your bed then put your back to the curved inner portion of the C-shaped part. Pull the top part and rest your head on it. Next place the bottom part so it goes between your thighs and you can rest your bump on its surface.
Note that the bottom portion should not be too high up when it crosses between your thighs. It should lie between the knees and hips so they can get adequate support.
U-shaped pregnancy pillows come in a large horseshoe shape. They are the largest and priciest out of all other pregnancy pillows. The curve of the U is where you place your head. While you hug one arm of the pillow, the other supports your back.
U-shaped pillows also provide support to the head, neck, belly, knees, and ankles.
U-shaped pillows are suitable for you if:
- Sleep sideways or on your back
- Change sleeping positions often
- Want full body support
- The bed is both long and wide
An alternative to the U-shaped pillow is the J-shaped pillow. It fits smaller beds due to its smaller size. It has only one arm but provides excellent support to the head, neck, and back.
How to Use it
Place the pillow on the bed. Hug one of the arms and keep your back to the other. To change positions, simply turn over to the other side.
You can also sleep on your back and still get support for your head, neck, and back.
If you love sleeping on your stomach, it can be tough not to do so as your pregnancy progresses and your bump gets bigger. As a result, sleeping may become more difficult. Then how can you use a pregnancy pillow to sleep on your stomach?
Fortunately, the super comfortable inflatable pregnancy pillows have got your back. These pillows come equipped with a depression at its center which supports your bump whenever you lie on your stomach.
Look for inflatable pillows which offer back support.
Inflatable pregnancy pillows are suitable for you if:
- Like sleeping on your stomach
- Currently in your third trimester
- Want a pillow with adjustments for different levels of support
How to Use it
The material of these pregnancy pillows are similar to air mattresses and usually come with a pump upon purchase. Use this pump to inflate the pillow to your preferred comfort level.
Lay on top of the pillow and put your bump in the hole. You can also place towels inside the hole to maximize comfort.
5. Pregnancy Wedges
A pregnancy wedge is not quite a pillow but rather a support to prop up a targeted area, particularly the baby bump. They are small, triangular or circular in shape and inexpensive.
Pregnancy wedges are suitable for you if:
- Need to support a target area
- Are on a tight budget
- The bed is small
- Want a multipurpose pregnancy pillow
- Want a pillow that is portable
How to Use it
Pregnancy wedges are very easy to use. Ease into bed and simply place the wedge under the area that needs support. You can use the wedge to support your belly to prevent back pain.
Additionally, you can also place the wedge under your head to reduce the risk of acid reflux and heartburn.
What to Look For in a Pregnancy Pillow
Below are some criteria that your pregnancy pillow should fulfill to provide you with maximum comfort and a good rest:
1. Removability and Easy to Wash
Cleanliness is important for the health of both you and your child. Unfortunately, pregnant women sweat a lot and the pillow covers absorb this. As a result, disease-causing microbes may begin to grow. This is why it is important that the pregnancy pillow you choose comes with a removable cover that can be washed regularly.
If your pillow does not have a removable cover, make sure that it is machine washable and small enough to fit inside a washing machine.
2. Type of Pillow Filling
Pregnancy pillows come with a variety of fillings. Your level of comfort and quality of sleep will depend on the type of filling in your pillow.
There are seven types of pillow fillings to choose from:
1. Polyester Fiber
Polyester fiber is a popular pillow filling. It is a soft and firm material. Unfortunately, polyester is prone to absorbing heat and attracts dust and bacteria. Avoid this pillow filling if you suffer from dust allergies.
It is also not very durable as it retains fullness for about two years.
2. Styrofoam Ball
Styrofoam balls are tiny white balls like those used to fill bean bags. Pregnancy pillows with this filling are cheaper and contain air which makes it buoyant and more flexible. They also provide greater support and comfort.
Get a Styrofoam pillow with a removable cover as these pillows are not machine washable.
Note that these pillows are not suitable for you if you are a light sleeper as they make a lot of noise.
Microbeads are very small and lightweight balls with a consistency like sand. Their smooth quality makes pillows with this filing very flexible. Microbead pillows also make less noise than Styrofoam pillows and are cheaper.
Get a microbead pillow with a removable cover as these pillows are not machine washable.
4. Memory Foam
Memory foam pillows are extremely firm and can change shape to fit the contours of your body. They provide great support to the body and help to alleviate backaches. Memory foam pillows are also machine washable.
The drawbacks of memory foam is that it is expensive and absorbs heat which can make you get hot while you sleep.
An alternative to memory foam is a shredded memory foam pillow which is similar but it allows more air in which prevents overheating.
Buckwheat hull is an organic pillow filling. It is hypoallergenic and does not absorb body heat. Pregnancy pillows with this filling can last for a decade.
Pregnancy pillows with water fillings contain a polyester pouch which holds the water. A floating memory foam layer rests on top of this pouch. These pillows are also called therapeutic pillows. They provide excellent support for the head and alleviate neck pain.
There are more organic pillow fillings along with buckwheat. These include wool, bamboo, fiber, and kapok. Pillows with these fillings are hypoallergenic and do not pollute the environment.
Unfortunately, these organic pillows are not easily washable and do not retain their original shape for long.
The bigger the pillow, the more space it takes up on the bed and the less portable it is. Choose a big pillow if you change sleep positions frequently.
Pick a pillow size based on your height. If you are taller than average than go for a pillow that measures 250 to 350 cm or if you are of average height, go for a pillow that measures 160 to 170 cm.
Don’t forget to keep the size of your bed in mind.
4. Noise and Pungency
Pillows with a Styrofoam ball filling make a lot of noise when you move. What’s more, pillow fillings that are not organic may have a slight chemical smell.
If you are a light sleeper and/or sensitive to smells, consider these factors when you buy a pregnancy pillow.
Some people equate softness with comfort. However, soft pillows do not actually provide adequate support as well as a firmer pillow does.
A firm pillow retains its shape and provides greater support to both your head and body.
If you have dust allergies, look for a hypoallergenic pregnancy pillow. Hypoallergenic pillows prevent allergy flare-ups which can be fatal.
Is There a Right Time to Begin Using a Pregnancy Pillow?
Although there is no fixed time to start using a pregnancy pillow, you should be using one 20 weeks into your pregnancy. This is when your bump grows heavy enough to start becoming uncomfortable and cause body pain.
Using a pregnancy pillow at this stage will ease your pain and let you have a night of uninterrupted sleep.
Recommended Sleeping Positions for Pregnant Women
Some sleeping positions are best to avoid while you’re while others are great for both you and the baby. The healthiest sleeping position for expectant mothers is lying on your side with your knees bent. This promotes better blood circulation and therefore provides enough oxygen to the baby.
Additionally, sleeping with pillows in a half sitting position will reduce the chance of getting heartburn.
Sleeping Positions to Avoid
Sleeping on your back is dangerous as your pregnancy progresses. When sleeping on your back, the weight of your uterus can put pressure on blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart. This reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the baby and your organs. Continuing to sleep in this position can result in:
- Low blood pressure which reduces blood flow to the baby
- Difficulty breathing
- Digestive disorders
There are all sorts of things to consider when it comes to searching for the right pregnancy pillow. Mothers should be careful about how they sleep when they’re pregnant to make sure they’re not harming the baby.
Pregnancy pillows help with keeping both you and your baby healthy and comfortable.
But to get the best out of your pregnancy pillow, you need to choose the right pregnancy pillow that’s both easy to maintain and comfortable to sleep on. Consider the type of filling if you suffer from allergies or you’re a light sleeper.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you get your bearings so that you can pick the perfect pregnancy pillow for you and your baby bump.
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