A body pillow can be an expectant mother’s best friend, helping her catch some much-needed shut-eye despite the discomfort, aches, and pains carrying around another human inside her may bring. Don’t miss this quick guide to body pillows including tips for proper use when sleeping:
What is a Body Pillow?
A body pillow is a long, slender pillow that can be used to improve comfort in bed for people who sleep on their side, especially pregnant women and people with existing spine or hip issues. The purpose of a body pillow is to promote good spine alignment while you sleep as well as take pressure off painful joints and generally improve the quality of your sleep.
Body pillows come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses – typically from just over a foot wide to 20 or more inches. Their design may vary from one to the next as well. A straight I-shaped pillow will have no curves, a J-shaped pillow (similar to a commonly used C-shape) will curve at one end or both ends slightly, and a U-shaped pillow will curve at the top and bottom to wrap around your whole body while you sleep. You can find them in most bed and bath stores, big box stores, and online.
What to Look for in a Body Pillow?
In addition to finding the right size and thickness of a pillow that will suit your sleep, you may also want to consider one with extra features like:
- Organic, unbleached cotton covers
- Natural, chemical-free stuffing like natural wool
- Hypoallergenic and antimicrobial materials
- Removable casings which allow you to remove stuffing to customize the pillow just to your liking
- Washable, or at least has a washable case/cover
Benefits of Sleeping with a Body Pillow
A 2017 study reported in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology revealed that expectant mothers who slept on their backs in the third trimester had over 2 times the risk of having a late stillbirth compared to women who slept on their left side. The widely-recommended side sleeping position isn’t necessarily the easiest or most comfortable, however, and that is where body pillows come into play.
A long, comfy body pillow offers a plethora of benefits to people who may have trouble sleeping, especially pregnant women. On top of promoting good spine alignment, body pillows can relieve pressure on your knees, back, and hips. If you suffer from sciatic pain, nerve pain from excess pressure on the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back down your leg, a body pillow can help.
A long body pillow can also prevent tossing and turning at night, relieve stress, and can even be used as an aid for breastfeeding once your baby arrives.
Read More: 17 Must Know Pregnancy Pillow Benefits
How to Sleep with a Body Pillow
Body pillows can be employed in a variety of positions. For pregnant women specifically, experts recommend fully supporting the head, neck, and knees, while letting your belly rest directly on the bed or propped up by the pillow. Some women even utilize a wedge pillow to rest directly under the belly when side sleeping to alleviate the strain on back muscles trying to hold everything up.
With a U-shaped pillow, you take the curved section and place it under your head and neck with one leg of the U running down your back and the other down the front. Slide your left arm underneath it and then position it under your belly and between your knees to a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed.
J and C-shaped pillows are utilized in the same way. You want to wrap them along your back, resting your head on top of a curved end and then bring up the bottom end between your knees. An I-shaped pillow will run along your front side, as though you were hugging the pillow with legs bent, one over the top of the pillow and one underneath.
Read More: how to use pregnancy pillow
The American Pregnancy Association states that sleeping on your left side has been shown to facilitate the best flow of nutrients and blood to the placenta in your uterus where your baby is growing. Sometimes sleeping on your side, even with a body pillow, isn’t comfortable though. You may experience pregnancy-related heartburn, shortness of breath, or persistent back pain.
In these instances, talk with your doctor or other prenatal professional assisting you, and consider propping yourself up with additional pillows under your abdomen and upper body.