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Pregnancy puts a bit of a strain on your body, and you probably feel aches and pains all over by the time you're halfway through. If sleeping comfortable seems impossible, a maternity pillow may be the solution.

Common sleep problems during pregnancy

Sleep problems can start as early as the first trimester, when your pregnancy hormones may have you up to use the bathroom quite often... pee, or to throw up! Mind you, you probably won't have trouble going to sleep, because most women are very tired during this period. Wait until late in the second trimester, and most pregnant women will be dealing with heartburn, insomnia, and feeling fetal movement and Braxton Hicks contractions.

Pregnancy nausea and vomiting may still be around too, and looser joints and the physical strain the growing fetus puts on the mom-to-be's body often also result in aches and pains, all over the body. Shortness of breath, which is not uncommon during pregnancy, can be an additional burden. All of this will continue all the way into the third trimester, when a new problem shows up the sheer size of the abdomen makes it hard for many expectant mothers to get comfortable enough to go to sleep. Of course, they may also be watching out for labor contractions! A maternity pillow may not be able to solve all of the pregnancy complaints that keep you awake, but it could take away one or two. Let's have a look.

What is a maternity pillow, exactly?

A maternity pillow is as you can see from the name a pillow designed to meet the needs of pregnant women. Type "pregnancy pillow", "maternity pillow", and similar terms into a search engine or an online shop like Amazon, and you'll see that maternity pillows come in many different shapes. Whole-body maternity pillows that look like a long snake are pretty popular. These pillows can be positioned between your legs, over your tummy, under your back, or however you like, and are very versatile. Some maternity pillows are pre-shaped, mostly into variations of a "C" shape. Then there are maternity pillows that look a little like a bean, or a maternity "wedge" that looks like a wedge of cheese. Finally, I've spotted "V" shaped pregnancy pillows that look rather interesting. Not that I would have any idea how to use one of these. With all these weird-looking pillows, it can be really hard to know which one to choose, or if they're worth it at all. Pregnancy pillows tend to be quite pricey. They range from around $15 (for the small wedges) to $100 (for the huge whole-body pillows). If your discomfort isn't speaking loudly enough, you'll want to know what exactly a maternity pillow can do for you. Here is a general idea:

  • If your pregnant body is too big to get comfortable, positioning a pillow around yourself, or yourself around a huge pillow, can make a big difference. I remember tossing and turning for hours and then finally falling asleep in a position that wasn't comfortable at all. If that sounds familiar, a maternity pillow may work for you.
  • On a related note, sleeping on your left side is best for the baby. This is the sleeping position that provides the placenta with the best blood flow. Sleeping on your left side may only be tolerable with a special pillow!
  • Heartburn can be a terrible pest. Some moms stay up most of the night because of it. Ask me how I know! If heartburn remedies don't work, don't forget to try baking soda mixed in water. If even that doesn't provide much relief, sleeping in a semi-reclined position may be the only way to actually get any sleep. That's where those wedges come in handy. A whole-body pillow will work for this too.
  • If you are planning to labor at home for some of the time, or are planning on giving birth at home, a maternity pillow can offer wonderful support during contractions and even the birth itself.
  • Once your baby is there, a snake-shaped pregnancy pillow can make the difference between the bed and the floor if you're co-sleeping. Even if you are not intending to share your bed with your newborn, you will probably place him or her on your bed quite frequently. These pillows can also help you find a comfortable position to breastfeed in.

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