Choosing the right pregnancy pillow: 8 features to look for when shopping for side-sleeping support

During pregnancy, a journey of exciting yet often overwhelming change and growth, you will encounter many products promising support and comfort.

When you progress to side-sleeping - the best position for your baby to receive an improved flow of nutrients to the placenta - the downward drag from your growing belly causes strain on your back, hips and pelvis, often resulting in pain and sleepless nights. An effective way to relieve these issues is to use a specially designed maternity pillow.

At a time when you’re already attending more appointments than you’ve probably ever had, making a multitude of tough decisions and wading through tonnes of information on everything from birth plans to car seats, the last thing you need is to scroll through hundreds of pillow options - when all you really want to do is just grab one and go to sleep!

So rest easy, because we’ve broken it down for you. Here are the features to look for to ensure you’re getting the safest, most comfortable, and supremely restful pregnancy pillow:

Does it provide safe and secure support to the right areas of your body?
For comforting relief, your pregnancy pillow needs to be contoured, providing firm and stable support to both your back and belly to encourage correct pelvic alignment. Appropriate back support, is additionally important to ensure you don’t roll onto your back during the night and put too much pressure on your stomach. Look for these claims in the product descriptions or speak to the company for advice. You may also need extra support between your knees, so a pillow that can provide this is an added bonus.

Does it look and feel comfortable?

You need stability, but you also need delicious softness and rich comfort. A good pregnancy pillow will combine these aspects and ensure a gentle yet secure, supportive feel. Make sure there are no bulky joins or seams, and look for pillows with soft cotton covers and high quality filling that will prevent clumping. We know that if you’re shopping online then it’s hard to be sure about these aspects, but look carefully at the photos and specifications (and also the reviews). Get in touch with the company or manufacturer and check if they have a local distributor or retailer so you can see the product for yourself.

Is it compact enough to fit in with your lifestyle?

There are so many options out there, from huge body pillows to compact designs. You need to consider how much room the maternity pillow will take up in your bed as this will impact on where your partner sleeps. Compact pregnancy pillows allow you to remain sleeping in the same bed as your partner, and can also be easily packed for trips or used for support during lengthy car rides. With larger pillows, your partner will, most likely, need to move out of the room to accommodate - or face being nudged out of bed during the night! You also can’t easily take large body pillows with you when travelling either due to their imposing size.

Will it minimise overheating?

During pregnancy, you want to reduce the risk of overheating as it can cause complications and impacts on your quality of sleep. Look for light, breathable fabrics, preferably high-quality cotton, which will assist with keeping you cool during the night. Larger, bulkier pillows also tend to make you overheat more, so a compact pillow, allowing airflow around your body, will be more likely to reduce this risk and minimise disturbance to your sleep.

Does it require repositioning?

To ensure the best night’s sleep possible, you’ll want to minimise the need for moving and shuffling the position of the pillow. Look for a pregnancy pillow design that stays in place when you roll over, as this will allow you to stay asleep or fall back asleep quickly. This will most likely be a smaller, double-sided or mirror image style of design. A more compact pillow will also allow you to get in and out of bed more easily for those inconvenient but frequently necessary toilet breaks.

Is it conveniently versatile and durable?

While many maternity pillows are on the higher price side, they do even out to a reasonable cost when you consider how many restful nights you have to gain! Some pillows have the ability to support you in multiple ways and can even be used as a feeding pillow after your baby arrives. Make sure you check out the versatility and durability of your pillow before making a purchase. Ask the company how long the pillow is expected to last with proper care and what the warranty conditions entail. When you consider how little you’re paying per use, then the benefits to your health and happiness far outweigh the cost.

Are the materials hypoallergenic and non-toxic?

The safety of your baby and your body is paramount, so avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals and allergens will be a high priority. Choose a pregnancy pillow that is made from hypoallergenic materials and features non-toxic dyes. Even better, a pillow with a cover made using organic cotton will further prevent exposure to toxins due to the environmentally friendly farming practices that would have gone into producing the material.

Is it easily cared for?

You have so many things to worry about during your pregnancy, so who wants to spend time hand-washing or at the dry cleaners? Of course, some materials may last longer hand-washed, but if the pillow has complete machine washability then it should still be durable enough to handle this easier option.

As always, if your pain, discomfort or restless sleep continues, please see your doctor or health practitioner. For more information about sleeping safely and soundly during pregnancy, see our blog.