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What is a Maternity Pillow?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 23, 2024
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Anyone who has survived the joys of pregnancy will know the value of a good maternity pillow. The maternity pillow was designed to help alleviate the comfort and medical issues a pregnant woman faces while attempting to get a good night's sleep. As a pregnancy progresses, the increasing weight of the baby and uterus poses new problems to the mother.

By the second trimester, it is increasingly difficult for the mother to sleep on her side and back for several reasons. Sleeping on one's back can not only be uncomfortable, but can be medically unsafe as well. This position puts the full weight of the uterus on a woman's back, intestines, and inferior vena cava, possibly resulting in backaches, hemorrhoids, poor digestion, swelling of the extremities, reduced circulation, breathing difficulties, and even a drop in blood pressure. Many a pregnant woman has tossed and turned in the search for the perfect positioning of pillows that will allow them adequate comfort and support. One trip to the bathroom sends the system into disarray, which leads to the next series of adjustments and maneuvers to get comfortable — resulting in less sleep and a perturbed sleeping partner.

Experts agree that the best position for a pregnant woman to sleep in is on her left side, which allows for the best circulation. Before the advent of the maternity pillow, pregnant women were forced to make do with plain old bed pillows. Today, there is a wide range of products available that support the belly and lower back, while helping to align the hips, all with the goal of alleviating the stress of pregnancy — if only for a few hours at night. Many products may easily be converted into nursing pillows after the baby is born.

There are four general types of maternity pillow:

  • The maternity pillow: This consists of two pillows attached with Velcro. This type of pillow supports both the belly and the lower back simultaneously while the mother sleeps between the pillows.
  • The wedge: This maternity pillow is wedged under the belly to provide simple support.
  • The full-length body pillow: These are around five feet long and support the back, belly, and knees. These pillows are an affordable option since they may be purchased at almost any store that sells bedding.
  • The Bean: This maternity pillow is made in the shape of a kidney bean so that it wraps from under the belly to between the knees.

A maternity pillow makes a great gift for any sleep deprived mom-to-be — or her equally sleep deprived husband.

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Discussion Comments
By bear78 — On May 01, 2012

@turkay1-- I recommend the snoogle maternity pillow. It's the super long one that you just wrap around your body. It basically provides support all around so it will help with hip pain and any other pain you might experience as the pregnancy progresses.

A lot of people worry about what they're going to do with maternity pillows after the pregnancy is over. I didn't have that issue because I still use mine! Not to mention my husband who used it one night and liked it so much that he got himself one!

You could also let the baby sleep on it since it's so soft and comfortable. Some women use the smaller ones to support the baby while they're nursing.

By candyquilt — On Apr 30, 2012

I'm 16 weeks pregnant and have been experiencing really bad hip pain for the past week. I think I'm not sleeping in the right position. I wake up throughout the night in discomfort and keep tossing and turning to find a good position.

Maternity body pillows sound great but after a quick search online, I've found out that there are so many different kinds! Even more than what the article mentioned. So I'm pretty confused.

Any suggestions for a maternity pillow that will help with hip pain?

By burcidi — On Apr 30, 2012

Maternity support pillows are amazing! I started using one when I was six months pregnant because the back pain was becoming unbearable. I didn't have nausea or vomiting like most pregnant women do but had horrible back pain from three months onward. I was able to manage for a while but as my belly got bigger, the pain got worse.

My sister-in-law told my husband about maternity pillows when she heard about what I was going through. We purchased one right away. The one I had was a long thin pillow attached to another regular looking pillow. It's attached on the left so you can sleep on your left side and support the belly and legs.

My back improved a lot after using a maternity pillow. I think every pregnant woman should get one. It's so worth it.

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