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How to Use a Pregnancy Pillow: Tips for Better Sleep

Medically Reviewed by Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN
Learn how to get the most out of your pregnancy pillow.

Do you find yourself struggling to catch a good night’s sleep as your body changes during pregnancy?

You’re not alone. We’ve been there too. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78% of women experience disturbed sleep patterns throughout their pregnancy (1). So, what’s a suffering mom to do?

One of the best solutions we found to this issue was to use a pregnancy pillow. These pillows were lifesavers — or at least sleep savers — for us. They not only helped us sleep better during pregnancy, but they also eliminated some common pregnancy aches and pains.

We’ll explain the differences between pregnancy pillow styles and how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow so you can finally wake up feeling rested.

Key Takeaways

  • Pregnancy pillows help improve sleep and alleviate pregnancy aches and pains.
  • Full-length pillows are suitable for side sleepers and come in straight and flexible styles.
  • C-shaped pillows provide full-body support and are ideal for side sleepers with back pain.
  • U-shaped pillows offer full-body support for back sleepers and those who toss and turn.

Why Pregnancy Makes Sleep Difficult

Pregnancy is a time of significant change in every woman’s body. 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. Some hormones tighten your muscles, leading to snoring and discomfort at night.

2. Heartburn

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

Later 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

If you’re like us, you may have a hard time turning off worrisome thoughts and anxieties about your 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.

A solid sleep routine is crucial for your health and your growing baby’s health. Sleep has to be a priority — even if it feels impossible.

This is where pregnancy pillows come in. We found that a pregnancy pillow was the best asset for improving our sleep.

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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 in 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 form 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” toward your back. Pull the top of the pillow toward your head, and place the bottom of the pillow between your thighs. The entire bottom of the pillow should reach up to your belly to support it.

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.

Like C-shaped pregnancy pillows, U-shaped pillows 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 the best solution for back sleepers 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, making for an easy setup. Simply inflate the pillow to a comfortable level.

After inflating the pillow, 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

Look for an inflatable pillow that explicitly states on the packaging that it offers great back support.

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. Wedges come in two standard shapes — circles and triangles. Using a pregnancy wedge is simple: 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 for travel.


Are Pregnancy Pillows Worth It?

Many pregnant women find pregnancy pillows beneficial for providing support and alleviating discomfort, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. They can help in maintaining a comfortable sleeping position.

What Week Should You Start Sleeping With a Pregnancy Pillow?

It depends on the individual. Some women start as early as the first trimester when they begin to feel discomfort, while others might wait until the second or third trimester.

Is a C-shaped or U-shaped Pregnancy Pillow Better?

It actually depends on personal preference. C-shaped pillows support the back, head, and legs, while U-shaped pillows can offer all-around body support. Consider trying both types to see which one feels more comfortable.

Should I Sleep With a Pillow In Between My Legs While Pregnant?

Placing a pillow between the knees and under the abdomen can relieve pressure on the lower back and hips, helping sleep more comfortably.

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Headshot of Mary Sweeney, BSN, RN, CEN

Medically 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.