While pregnancy is an exciting time, it has its challenges, and getting a good night's sleep often is one of them.

If you have trouble sleeping, you are not on your own. According to one observational study, as many as half of all expectant mums suffer from insomnia at some point during their pregnancy.

Even those who don't suffer from the sleep disorder can agree that when growing a new baby in your belly, getting a restful night's sleep every night is never easy.

That's where pregnancy support pillows can come in very useful. Available in various shapes and sizes, these pillows are ideal for your wellbeing. Pregnancy pillows help to relieve pressure, aches and pains and allow you to drift off in a comfortable position.

In this guide, we'll help you choose the perfect pregnancy pillow for you as well as explain in detail exactly how to use one, so there'll be no more restless nights while you await your little bundle of joy.

Choosing your pillow

Choosing a pregnancy pillow depends on your personal preference and your preferred sleeping position. 

Below we have briefly outlined some of the best body pillow choices, all of which can be used from the first trimester right up to the third trimester and beyond.

U-shaped pillows

A U-shaped pregnancy pillow is a popular choice of maternity pillow among expectant mums and with good reason. Although more expensive than other types of pregnancy pillows, largely due to their size, they can support the whole body, from the head, back, belly, knees, and even down to the ankles.

And, if you find yourself changing position frequently the night, this pillow doesn't need any readjusting.

These pillows provide the most support out of all pregnancy pillows. But as a sizable option, they aren't always suitable for those who share a bed or have a small bed. However, if extra support is what you're after, these pillows are a great option.

Wedge pillows

Wedge-shaped pillows are perfect for supporting either the back or head, whether you are sitting upright or reclining. They are also very effective at providing relief for your back and belly when you are sleeping on your side.

On those chillier nights, wedge-shaped pillows can be used to prop up a hot water bottle or, if you tend to overheat at night, an ice pack wrapped in a towel.

These small pillows are very convenient to travel with and won't take up all the bed space if you share a room with a partner. Due to their size, you will still require a normal pillow to support the head when sleeping.

C-shaped pillows

C-shaped pillows are ideal if you have a medium-sized bed because they are slightly smaller than U-shaped pillows. They provide support not just for the head and neck, but they can be used to take pressure away from the pelvic area. If you have water retention, a C-shaped pillow can help alleviate this from both the legs and ankles.

A downside to a C-shaped pillow is that some readjustment will be needed throughout the night, particularly if you toss and turn.

J-shaped pillows

Similar to the U-shaped pillow, the J-shaped pillow is slightly smaller and doesn't have the additional side that the U pillow has, making it perfect for smaller beds. A J-shaped pillow provides great back, neck and shoulder support.

Full-length pillows

A full-length pregnancy pillow, sometimes called I-shaped pillows, is designed to be placed straight and run the entire length of your body. They are similar to regular pillows, but they are much longer.

A full-length pillow is great to cuddle up to at night, and you can wrap your arms and legs around them. You can also get more flexible versions of the full-length pregnancy pillow, which can bend and contort to support the body better, but these are usually more expensive than the regular.

How to position pregnancy pillows

To get the best possible usage from your pillow, you need to know exactly how and where to position it. There are several places you can place various pillows, depending on your immediate requirements.

Under your belly

The most popular way to position a pillow, particularly in the later stages, is under the belly, where your growing baby is putting the most pressure. You can use U-shaped, wedge-shaped or I-shaped pillows in this way, and they'll all also help provide back support by taking some of the weight off.

Between your arms and legs

One of the best positions recommended by professionals is lying on your left side and placing a pillow between both your arms and legs while hugging it. This is a relaxing position to sleep in. Or you can wrap one leg around it, which will take some pressure away.

You can use a U-shaped pillow or a full-length pillow to achieve this, which will relieve stiffness and tension from both the knees and ankles.

Around your neck

Wrapping a pillow around the neck is the best position to help support your entire back, plus your pelvis. You can use a J-shaped, C-shaped or U-shaped pillow to do this.

The position will stop back sleepers from repositioning while they are asleep. If you want additional back support, you can always use a wedge-shaped pillow that should be placed behind your back and help relieve lower back pain.

Head support

A wedge-shaped pillow can be used underneath a normal pillow to support both the neck and head fully. These are a great option for those suffering from acid reflux as they keep you propped up while still being super comfortable.

Do you need a pregnancy support pillow?

Pregnancy pillows probably can't be classed as a need, but they are extremely important if you - like many other pregnant women - struggle to sleep whilst expecting. Why risk interrupted sleep when you need it most, especially as these pillows work so well?

And, make no mistake, these pillows shouldn't be considered 'luxury items'. They can provide a number of fantastic benefits, including increased stamina, more flexibility and even more energy as you recharge with a good night's sleep.

They are also useful for those suffering from chronic pain throughout their trimesters, whether they have painful ligaments, sciatica or that niggling and unrelenting lower back pain. If a pillow can provide relief from these, they really are worth trying out as well as being very cost-effective.

Of course, if you prefer, you can assemble yourself a combination of normal pillows that can provide relief if you don't want to purchase one designed specifically for pregnancy. The main downside to this is that you'll have to constantly manoeuvre the rearrange the pillow set up throughout the night if you switch sides.

FAQs about pregnancy pillows

Is a pregnancy pillow safe to use?

Yes, a pregnancy pillow is not only completely safe to use but has many benefits. Some of these include: 

  • Keeping your body aligned
  • Improving circulation
  • Helping you adjust to a new sleeping position that may be unfamiliar
  • Reducing pressure
  • Easing heartburn and reflux
  • Helping improve circulation 

Can I use a pregnancy pillow after my baby is born?

Absolutely. You might be surprised to know these pillows are used by a wide variety of people - not just those who are pregnant. After the baby is born, a maternity pillow can help support the back when your little one is feeding. They also help you get a great night's sleep post-partum. Many women refuse to sleep without one after they give birth!

What's the best design for a pregnancy pillow?

The answer to that all depends on what you are after in a pregnancy pillow. Some will allow you to move freely and won't require adjusting as you do. There are also pregnancy pillows that support just a few areas of the body, while others will alleviate pain, discomfort and pressure from almost your whole body. The choice is yours.

Can I use a regular pillow as a pregnancy pillow?

A regular pillow will not give the amount of support that a maternity pillow can; however, it can be a good substitute option for some mums-to-be. There are many benefits to owning a pregnancy pillow, the main one being that you'll potentially see a huge difference in your sleep quality. And restful sleep is very important throughout every trimester.

Find the right pregnancy support pillow

With the amount of choice when it comes to pregnancy pillows, it can be confusing to know where to begin. And then there's deciding how to use them!

But, if you think carefully about what you want the pregnancy pillow to do, what particular areas you want to target, and your usual sleeping position, it should help you find the perfect match. Thankfully, using them couldn't be easier too!

For more guides on pregnancy pillows, check out the pages below:

The Ultimate Guide to Sleeping With a Pregnancy Pillow
Pregnancy Pillow Benefits: Do I Need a Pregnancy Pillow?
What Size Are Pregnancy Pillows: The Ultimate Guide
4 Sleeping Positions To Try During Pregnancy And After Your Baby Is Born
Guide To The Best Pillows For Pain During Pregnancy
Best Pregnancy Pillows for Side Sleepers

At Sleepseeker, we have a range of bedding to help improve your sleep quality, including duvets, pillows, and mattress toppers