How to Sleep With a Pregnancy Pillow

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Are you pregnant and tired? Do you find yourself struggling to catch a good night’s sleep as your body changes?

You’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78 percent of women experience disturbed sleep patterns throughout their pregnancy (1). So, what’s a suffering mom-to-be to do?

One of the easiest and most popular solutions to this issue is a pregnancy pillow. They’re not only designed to help pregnant women sleep, but also remedy some common and uncomfortable aches and pains.

However, not all pregnancy pillows are created equal. Which one’s best? How can you make this miracle invention work for you?

Why Pregnancy Makes Sleep Difficult

Pregnancy is a time of great change in every woman’s body — and some of those changes make falling asleep — or staying asleep — more difficult.

1. Hormones

As with most pregnancy woes, hormones play a role in altering your sleep patterns. Higher progesterone levels can cause daytime sleepiness, while other hormones may lead to vivid and unusual dreams, or tighten your muscles leading to snoring and discomfort at night.

2. Heartburn

Hormones can also cause heartburn, painful burning in the chest and esophagus. Heartburn is also notorious for keeping expecting moms up at night.

Later on in pregnancy, heartburn can also be caused by your growing baby putting pressure against the stomach, pushing digestive acids up your esophagus (2).

3. Stress

Pregnancy is also stressful! Many moms have a hard time turning off thoughts of worry and their anxieties about their baby’s arrival. What will labor be like? What if something goes wrong? Do I have everything I need? We know from experience these thoughts can keep a mother up for hours.

It’s key to remember a healthy sleep routine is crucial for your health, and your growing baby’s. Sleep has to be a priority — even if it feels impossible.

This is where pregnancy pillows come in. The best pregnancy pillow can be a great asset as you work on finding your way back into shuteye.

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Types of Pregnancy Pillows

If you’ve ever done an online search for a pregnancy pillow, you likely found a wide variety of them available online. They come in all shapes and sizes, with just enough options to be perfectly overwhelming.

The best way to determine which pregnancy pillow best suits your needs is to take a look at the different styles and their attributes. Generally speaking, there are five types of pregnancy pillows.

1. Full-length Pregnancy Pillow

QUEEN ROSE 55in Pregnancy Pillow, U-Shaped Full Body Pillow for Back Support...
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Full-length pregnancy pillows are a great option if you’re looking to support specific trouble areas such as your head, belly, and knees. They’re simply extra long, straight pillows you’re meant to cuddle and embrace while you snooze.

A warning: full-length pregnancy pillows are sometimes simply called “body pillows” since they’re also used by people who aren’t pregnant. Don’t confuse a body pillow with a full body pillow. A tip to keep them straight? Full body pillows, as you will learn below, often have shape names.

2. C-Shaped Full Body Pregnancy Pillow

PharMeDoc Full Body Pregnancy Pillow - Maternity Pillow for Pregnant Women - C...
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A full body pregnancy pillow is designed to support your entire body as it changes during pregnancy. C-shaped pregnancy pillows look just like they sound — a giant C. (Think about the letters on Sesame Street — that, but comfier.)

With these models, “c” stands for comfort.

3. U-Shaped Full Body Pregnancy Pillow

QUEEN ROSE Pregnancy Pillow -U-Shape with Velvet Cover,Full Body Maternity...
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If you’re a side-sleeper, the u-shaped pregnancy pillow might be your best bet for getting a good night’s sleep. Think of a pillow that looks like a large horseshoe, filled with comfortable padding and you’ve got the general idea.

U-shaped pregnancy pillows are great because side-sleepers can straddle once side of the pillow and have their stomach supported, with their head resting on the curve. Women who like to sleep on their backs may also benefit from this pillow shape.

4. Inflatable Pregnancy Pillows

HOLO The Original Inflatable Pregnancy Pillow, Pregnancy Bed + Maternity Raft...
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Sleeping on your stomach grows more and more impossible as your belly grows larger. Many women experience discomfort from the sudden limit to their range of motion — and the sudden inability to sleep in their favorite position.

Have no fear! Inflatable pregnancy pillows are the answer!

They’re inflated, almost like a separate mattress on top of your bed. They come equipped with a comfortable hole, so your belly will be cradled while you lie on your stomach.

5. Pregnancy Wedges

hiccapop Pregnancy Pillow Wedge for Maternity | Memory Foam Pillows Support...
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Pregnancy wedges are not technically pillows, but they’re inexpensive and good for targeting specific areas of the body that need a little prop up to be comfortable.

The wedge, generally triangular in shape, slides easily under the area that needs support — many women like to use them for their growing belly while side-sleeping.

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Using Full Length Pregnancy Pillows

A full-length pregnancy pillow may be right for you if:

  • You sleep on your side.
  • You don’t move a lot during sleep.
  • You have extra room on your bed.

To sleep with a full-length pregnancy pillow, place the pillow onto your bed and wrap your arms around it. Pull the pillow close to you and find a comfortable position. Full-length pregnancy pillows come into two different styles, straight and flexible.

Pillow Pro Tip

If you sleep in more unique, acrobatic positions, go for the flexible full-length pillow. Straight full-length pillows are rigid and cannot be formed to your specific position.

Using C-Shaped Pregnancy Pillows

A c-shaped pregnancy pillow may be right for you if:

  • You have back pain.
  • You want full-body support.
  • You don’t toss and turn.
  • You sleep on your side.
  • You have extra room on your bed.

To sleep with a c-shaped pregnancy pillow, place the pillow on the bed and spread out the shape so you can easily climb into it.

Place the curve of the “c” towards your back. Pull the top of the pillow towards your head and place the bottom of the pillow between your thighs. The full bottom of the pillow should reach up to your belly, which is then supported by the pillow.

Pillow Pro Tip

Make sure you don’t let the pillow ride too high up your thighs. It needs to be squarely centered between your knees and hips. This will ensure both get the support they need.

Using U-Shaped Pregnancy Pillows

A u-shaped pregnancy pillow may be right for you if:

  • You toss and turn at night.
  • You like to sleep on your side or back.
  • You are looking for full-body support.
  • You have extra room on your bed.

Similar to a c-shaped pregnancy pillows, a u-shape pillow is designed to make the transition from side to side easier. You straddle one side of the pillow, cuddling with it. To switch sides, all you have to do is turn over.

U-shaped pregnancy pillows are also great for pregnant ladies who sleep on their backs because they offer support on both sides. Women can snuggle right into the middle and get support for their back, neck, and head.

Using Inflatable Pregnancy Pillows

An inflatable pregnancy pillow may be right for you if:

  • You’re in your third trimester.
  • You like to sleep on your stomach.
  • You’d like to adjust your level of support.

It takes a bit of extra work to sleep with an inflatable pregnancy pillow, but it’s a great option if you slept on your stomach before pregnancy.

Inflatable pregnancy pillows are made of similar materials to an air mattress. They usually come with a pump included making setting them up easy. Simply use the included pump to inflate the pillow to a level that’s comfortable for you.

Once the pillow is inflated, gently lay on top of it, settling your baby bump into the hole provided. Depending on the material your pillow is made of, you may want to place a towel or blanket over it for extra comfort.

Pillow Pro Tip

Ensure you look into an inflatable pillow that explicitly states it offers great back support on the packaging.

Sleeping With A Pregnancy Wedge

A pregnancy wedge may be right for you if:

  • You need localized support.
  • You have a smaller budget.
  • You do not have much extra room in the bed.
  • You’re looking for versatility.

A pregnancy wedge is a great, inexpensive option for mothers with sleeping trouble. There are two different shapes of wedges — circles and triangles. Using a pregnancy wedge is simple: simply place the wedge underneath the area where you need support and rest easy.

Pillow Pro Tip

A pregnancy wedge is great for traveling and support on the go! Find a small one to keep in your car and or for travel.

What’s Your Favorite Pillow Shape?

Pregnancy pillows come in all shapes and sizes, each with benefits for the different sleepers out there. Side sleepers benefit from c-shapes, side and back sleepers enjoy u-shapes, and stomach sleepers should look into inflatable pregnancy pillows.

Sleep wedges are the low-space, affordable option for all!

How did you get comfortable trying to sleep during pregnancy? Do you have a favorite pregnancy pillow? Let us know about it in the comments below!

Headshot of Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Reviewed by

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN is an oncology nurse navigator and freelance medical writer. Mary has 4 years of experience as an officer in the Navy Nurse Corps. including emergency/trauma, post-anesthesia, and deployment medicine.
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