Sleeping during pregnancy can feel like a juggling act of managing aches, pains, and discomfort. And yet, sleep is vital to the parent's and developing baby's health. You can achieve restful sleep during pregnancy with correct positioning and a helpful tool called a pregnancy pillow.
Sleep during pregnancy can be uncomfortable.
Aches and pains occur due to physical and hormonal changes of pregnancy.
Pregnancy pillows can assist in a more restful night of sleep.
There are a few considerations before choosing a pregnancy pillow.
Sleep during pregnancy
Your pregnant body undergoes countless internal changes, from an expanding belly and larger breasts to stretching joints and hormone fluctuations. Sleep can become a difficult task, especially in later trimesters.
Physical changes impacting sleep
Your growing belly creates a physical barrier to some preferred sleeping positions, and changes deeper within your body, especially in your back and pelvis, may deprive you of a restful night of sleep.
During pregnancy, the bones of your pelvis must shift as they take on a heavier load. Additionally, a hormone called relaxin creates greater elasticity in the pelvic ligaments (body tissue that connects bone to bone) to prepare for birth. Increased weight, looseness of ligaments, and potential pelvic bone misalignment can cause discomfort and pain.
Best sleeping position during pregnancy
The best sleeping position during pregnancy is on your side. Side sleep allows unrestricted blood flow between your body's blood vessels and those of your developing baby. Side sleep is recommended by most obstetricians and midwives, especially after 28 weeks as the weight of the uterus and growing baby increases. Unfortunately, side sleep can be uncomfortable for many pregnant people with achy hips and backs. Pregnancy or body pillows may offer a solution to these ailments.
Benefits of a pregnancy pillow
The skyrocketing "pregnancy pillow" consumer market has many pregnant parents wondering about the benefits. A pregnancy body pillow may be worth it, given the physical changes and expected discomforts during pregnancy. Many consider these pillows a "must-have" pregnancy item. Pregnancy, maternity, or body pillows are wedges or full-body length rolls that can help to align the body into a proper position while promoting more comfortable sleep by alleviating aches and pains. Benefits include:
- Encouraging proper body alignment
- Decreasing hip pain by keeping legs parallel
- Improving blood circulation by supporting side sleeping
- Maintaining safe side sleeping position
When to start using your pillow
The great news is that you can use a pregnancy or body pillow whenever possible. Many non-pregnant people find comfort in them. Begin using your as soon as you feel comfortable, and feel free to continue to use it postpartum.
Sleeping positions with a body pillow
Since side sleep is recommended during pregnancy, a pregnancy pillow will support you in this position with proper neck, back, hip, and knee alignment. While lying on your side — the left side is the general recommendation during pregnancy — the pregnancy pillow will lay alongside the front of your body. You may decide to rest your head on it or not. The pillow follows the length of your body and may be tucked underneath your growing and heavy belly for additional support before it ends between your knees. Extra support and cushion between your knees can ease hip and pubic symphysis pain.
How to choose a body pillow
There are countless choices of pregnancy or body pillows on the market. Pillows come in many shapes, sizes and varying costs. Additionally, online is an excellent source for reviews from personal users. Here are some things to consider when deciding to purchase a pregnancy pillow.
What shape appeals to you and your body? Pregnancy pillows can be U or C-shaped, where you snuggle in the middle. This provides extra support along your back as well as the front. Some U- or C-shaped pillows have "cutouts" to accommodate breasts and belly. Some pillows are just long, like a log. A straightforward pregnancy wedge, which supports your abdomen and back, maybe all you require.
Affordability may be the deciding factor for your pillow. Prices vary greatly:
- Wedge pillows can cost as low as $25.
- Larger U-shaped or log-shaped pillows cost between $35 and $100.
- Luxury pillows are also available for $200 or more.
Look for a pillow that is washable or at least has a washable cover. Additionally, you may want to consider the pillow's longevity — will you continue to use it when you are no longer pregnant? Or do you plan to have more children and use the pillow again?
Other position recommendations
Side sleep is not comfortable for everyone. What other positions can you sleep in during pregnancy?
Sleeping on your stomach
You can sleep on your stomach while pregnant. However, around 12 weeks, your growing belly will make this position very uncomfortable. Sleeping on your stomach will not harm your baby. There is significant protection in the uterus and amniotic fluid. Multiple gestation pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.) may need to stop stomach sleeping sooner as their numerous babies grow and fill up the uterus quicker than a single baby.
Sleeping on your back
Back sleep is generally considered the most unsafe and uncomfortable sleep position during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Your expanding uterus is heavy during pregnancy with a growing baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, and blood. When on your back, the entire weight of your pregnant uterus rests on major blood vessels that transport blood to and from your lower body, including the uterus. Back sleep in the third trimester of pregnancy is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea.
Your body is working hard to grow your little one. Sleep is essential during the perinatal period. A body pillow offers a fantastic solution for a more restful night of sleep during pregnancy. Consider the different pillow shape options and what would work best for your body.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology. Prospective Evaluation of Maternal Sleep Position Through 30 Weeks of Gestation and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes.
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Can I sleep on my back when I'm pregnant?
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Sleep Position and breathing in late pregnancy and perinatal outcomes.
- PLoS One. Pelvic alignment changes during the perinatal period.