Do You Need a Pregnancy Pillow?

How It Can Help Your Aches and Pains

pregnancy pillow

When people think of pregnancy pains, many think of the discomfort of labor and delivery. But those 9 months leading up to the big day can make you feel like your life is just one ache, twinge, and cramp after another. 

Most pregnancy-related pain is related, in some way, to a lack of support; you carry a lot of extra weight while growing a baby (much of which is added in a short period of time) and that puts intense amounts of pressure on your back, hips and pubic bone, legs, and feet. This can feel especially noticeable during and after sleep, when it’s easy to remain in a less-than-ergonomic position for hours on end.

Since many pain relief options are off the table during pregnancy, you have to get creative about preventing and treating these discomforts. Using a pregnancy pillow, for example, is a great way to ward off many of the most common aches and pains.

What Are Pregnancy Pillows?

Pregnancy pillows are specially designed to provide extra support in all the places most affected by your growing baby and belly. Your body's shape during pregnancy is pretty unique. Most traditional pillows aren’t made to hug the contours of a pregnant body, leaving you vulnerable to back pain, leg cramps, pelvic stiffness and, ultimately, restless nights or even insomnia. 

A pregnancy pillow (whether it’s a full body pillow or a simple wedge) can reduce the strain on changing pressure points, fitting into all your nooks and crannies to prevent and reduce pain in those key areas.

How They Work

There are three main areas where pregnancy pillows really shine: under your belly, behind your back, and between your legs. These are the spots that benefit from extra support while you sleep during your pregnancy.

Though they might not work wonders for everyone, in general a pregnancy pillow can:

  • Ease your adjustment to a new sleeping position 
  • Keep your neck, back, and hips aligned during sleep
  • Reduce the pressure around your hips and pubic bone by keeping your legs parallel to one another
  • Improve circulation
  • Improve common pregnancy conditions like heartburn, nasal congestion, and leg cramps
  • Prevent you from accidentally rolling over onto your back while you sleep

Everyone should consider whether their pillows and mattresses are providing correct alignment of the spine, but this is especially true during pregnancy.

Simply being pregnant places strain on your spine, ligaments, and joints. Sleeping out of alignment will only exacerbate these problems. It’s also easier to pull or strain muscles when you’re pregnant.

Types of Pregnancy Pillows

Just like any other kind of pillow, what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. Finding the right pillow often involves some trial and error; you might prefer a wedge over a body pillow, or memory foam over bamboo fill. 

Thankfully, there are a lot of different options. Most pillows can be grouped by shape, with different shapes meeting different needs.

Pillow type How it helps
C-shaped or contour Supports your back or belly (depending on how you position it)
Keeps legs and hips parallel
Keeps neck supported and aligned with back
U-shaped Supports every part of your body equally
Keeps legs and hips parallel
Keeps neck supported and aligned with back
Wedge  Supports a targeted area, like under your belly, behind your back, or between your knees
Can prevent rolling over during sleep
Keeps you cooler than a full-body option

Finally, don’t forget to consider material: pillows are made of and covered with a variety of textiles, some of which may be more comfortable for you than others. If you run hot at night, you should skip the synthetics; if you want softer or more adjustable support, a polyfill pillow may be better than firm memory foam.

Do You Need One?

It depends on how you define “need.” Can you survive pregnancy without one? Sure! But you may find that sleeping is much more uncomfortable and your days are filled with more residual aches and pains than if you had one. 

Even though it’s not a “need,” a pregnancy pillow isn’t a luxury item: it’s something that can help you have more energy, more stamina, and more flexibility as you move throughout your pregnancy.

For people with chronic pain during pregnancy, whether it's round ligament pain, sciatic nerve pain, or run-of-the-mill lower back pain, feeling better during those nine months is worth every penny of the cost of a pillow. 

That said, you can definitely piece together a supportive pregnancy nest for yourself with ordinary pillows you already have instead of purchasing a specific pillow. The disadvantage here, though, is that you won’t easily be able to change positions during the night without rearranging your whole setup, and you won’t have a portable option for travel, if needed.

By Sarah Bradley
Sarah Bradley has been writing parenting content since 2017, after her third son was born. Since then, she has expanded her expertise to write about pregnancy and postpartum, childhood ages and stages, and general health conditions, including commerce articles for health products. Because she has been homeschooling her sons for seven years, she is also frequently asked to share homeschooling tips, tricks, and advice for parenting sites.