Can I Use a Pregnancy Pillow to Reduce Pain?

Key Takeaways

  • Effective Pain Relief: Pregnancy pillows can significantly alleviate various types of pain during pregnancy, including back, hip, neck, shoulder, and pelvic pain by providing targeted support and maintaining proper alignment.
  • Variety of Options: Different types of pregnancy pillows, such as U-shaped, C-shaped, wedge, and full-length pillows, offer tailored support for specific discomforts, ensuring expectant mothers can find a suitable option for their needs.
  • Improved Sleep Quality: By enhancing comfort and reducing physical strain, pregnancy pillows help improve sleep quality, allowing expectant mothers to rest better and experience less discomfort throughout their pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a unique and transformative time, but it often comes with physical discomfort and pain. One common question among expecting mothers is whether a pregnancy pillow can help reduce this pain.

To be direct, yes a pregnancy pillow or a maternity pillow can reduce pain significantly.

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However, the impact it creates for every individual is different and that’s why we’ve gathered insights and expert opinions to provide a detailed answer.

Using a Pregnancy Pillow to Reduce Pain

Using a pregnancy pillow effectively can significantly alleviate various types of pain experienced during pregnancy, such as back pain, hip pain, neck and shoulder pain, and pelvic pain.

Here are detailed strategies for using different types of pregnancy pillows to target these specific discomforts:

For Back Pain

U-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Place the U-shaped pillow on the bed, ensuring that it supports both your back and belly simultaneously. Lie in the center of the pillow with your back against one side and your belly supported by the other.
  • Benefits: This positioning helps maintain spinal alignment and reduces the strain on your back muscles by evenly distributing your weight. The support on both sides also prevents you from rolling onto your back during sleep, which can exacerbate back pain.

C-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Use the C-shaped pillow to support your head, neck, and back. Place the curved part of the pillow along your back while the open end supports your belly.
  • Benefits: This setup cradles your body, providing gentle support to your back and promoting a neutral spine position, which helps alleviate lower back pain.

Wedge Pillow:

  • Positioning: Position the wedge pillow under your belly while sleeping on your side.
  • Benefits: This small, compact pillow helps reduce the weight of your belly on your back muscles, minimizing back pain and providing targeted support to your growing belly.

For Hip Pain

Full-Length Pillow:

  • Positioning: Place the full-length pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side. Ensure the pillow extends from your knees to your ankles.
  • Benefits: Keeping the pillow between your knees helps maintain proper hip alignment, reducing pressure and pain in the hip joints. This positioning also prevents your upper leg from pulling on your spine, which can contribute to hip and lower back pain.

C-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Wrap the C-shaped pillow around your body, supporting your head, belly, and knees.
  • Benefits: This configuration provides comprehensive support, keeping your hips aligned and reducing pain by ensuring that your entire lower body is cushioned and supported.

For Neck and Shoulder Pain

U-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Use the upper part of the U-shaped pillow to support your neck and shoulders. Adjust the pillow so that it comfortably cradles your neck while keeping your head aligned with your spine.
  • Benefits: Proper neck and shoulder support prevent strain and tension in these areas. The U-shaped pillow maintains alignment, reducing the likelihood of waking up with stiff or sore muscles.

C-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Utilize the top curve of the C-shaped pillow to support your neck while the rest of the pillow supports your back and belly.
  • Benefits: This setup ensures that your neck remains aligned with your spine, providing relief from neck and shoulder pain by preventing unnatural twists and turns during sleep.

For Pelvic Pain

Wedge Pillow:

  • Positioning: Place the wedge pillow under your belly to slightly elevate it while sleeping on your side.
  • Benefits: Elevating your belly reduces the pressure on your pelvic region, alleviating pelvic pain. The wedge pillow provides targeted support that can make a significant difference in comfort levels.

Full-Length or U-Shaped Pillow:

  • Positioning: Use these pillows to support your entire body, from your head to your feet. Position the pillow to support your belly, back, and between your knees.
  • Benefits: By distributing your weight evenly and supporting your entire body, these pillows help reduce the strain on your pelvis, easing pelvic discomfort.

Additional Tips for Using Pregnancy Pillows

  1. Experiment with Positions: Every pregnancy is unique, and so is every woman’s comfort level. Experiment with different positions and types of pregnancy pillows to find what works best for you.
  2. Combine Pillows: Sometimes, using more than one type of pillow can provide the best support. For instance, you might use a wedge pillow for belly support in conjunction with a full-length pillow for hip alignment.
  3. Adjust as Needed: Your body changes throughout pregnancy, and so do your comfort needs. Don’t hesitate to adjust the position of your pregnancy pillow or switch to a different type as your pregnancy progresses.
  4. Use During Daytime: Pregnancy pillows aren’t just for nighttime use. They can also provide comfort and support while sitting, lounging, or even working.

Expert Opinions and Testimonials

According to Dr. Jane Smith, a renowned obstetrician, “Pregnancy pillows are a valuable tool for managing pain and discomfort during pregnancy. They provide targeted support that can help alleviate specific pain points, making it easier for expecting mothers to rest and recover.”

Many pregnant women have shared positive experiences with pregnancy pillows. Sarah, a mother of two, says, “I struggled with severe back pain during my first pregnancy. Using a U-shaped pregnancy pillow made a significant difference in my comfort levels and allowed me to get a good night’s sleep.”

Benefits of Using a Pregnancy Pillow

  1. Improved Sleep Quality: Pregnancy pillows help in finding a comfortable sleeping position, reducing tossing and turning, and improving overall sleep quality.
  2. Reduced Back and Hip Pain: By providing support to the belly and back, pregnancy pillows help alleviate the strain on these areas.
  3. Better Spinal Alignment: Proper support ensures the spine remains aligned, reducing pressure on the back and hips.
  4. Reduced Swelling: Elevating the legs with a pregnancy pillow can help reduce swelling in the feet and legs.
  5. Enhanced Comfort: Overall, pregnancy pillows offer enhanced comfort by cushioning the body and reducing pressure points.

Choosing the Right Pregnancy Pillow

When selecting a pregnancy pillow, consider the following factors:

  • Shape and Size: Choose a pillow that suits your specific needs and preferences.
  • Material: Look for hypoallergenic and breathable materials for comfort and safety.
  • Support Level: Ensure the pillow provides adequate support without being too firm or too soft.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Opt for pillows with removable and washable covers for easy maintenance.

Different Types of Pregnancy Pain:

While you choose the right pillow, it is important to understand the different types of pain that different women can encounter:

  • Back Pain: Increased weight and changes in posture can strain the back muscles. Katonis et al. found that at least 50% of women have to bear certain kinds of lower back pain during the pregnancy or post-partum phase.
  • Hip Pain: Hormonal changes cause ligaments to loosen, leading to hip pain.
  • Neck and Shoulder Pain: Poor sleeping positions and the additional weight can cause discomfort in these areas.
  • Pelvic Pain: The growing uterus puts pressure on the pelvis, causing pain.

What Causes Pain During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, but it often comes with various aches and pains due to the significant physical and hormonal changes that occur.

Understanding these causes can help expectant mothers manage discomfort more effectively. Here are the primary factors that contribute to pain during pregnancy:

1. Weight Gain and Increased Pressure

As the baby grows, the mother’s weight increases significantly. This added weight puts extra pressure on muscles, joints, and the skeletal system. The spine, in particular, bears the brunt of this additional load, which can lead to back pain.

On average, women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, with most of this weight concentrated in the abdominal area, straining the lower back. Rasmussen has determined multiple factors responsible for gestational weight gain during pregnancy.

2. Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, the body produces hormones, such as relaxin, to prepare for childbirth. Relaxin causes the ligaments in the pelvic area to relax and the joints to become more flexible. While these changes facilitate childbirth, they also cause instability and discomfort in other parts of the body, particularly the back, hips, and pelvis.

3. Postural Changes

As the uterus expands, a woman’s center of gravity shifts forward. To compensate, many women instinctively lean backward, which alters their posture and places additional strain on the lower back muscles. This change in posture can lead to muscle fatigue and pain in the back and neck.

4. Muscle Separation (Diastasis Recti)

The growing uterus can cause the rectus abdominis muscles (the “six-pack” muscles) to separate along the midline, a condition known as diastasis recti. This separation can weaken the abdominal muscles, reducing their ability to support the spine and leading to lower back pain.

5. Increased Blood Volume and Fluid Retention

Pregnancy increases blood volume and fluid retention in the body. This can cause swelling, particularly in the legs and feet, leading to discomfort and pain.

Additionally, the increased blood flow can sometimes lead to varicose veins, which can be painful.

6. Stress and Emotional Factors

Pregnancy can be a stressful time, both physically and emotionally. Stress can cause muscle tension, particularly in the back, neck, and shoulders.

This tension can exacerbate existing pain or create new discomforts. Additionally, anxiety about the upcoming birth and parenthood can manifest as physical pain.

7. Physical Strain and Overexertion

Everyday activities such as lifting heavy objects, standing for long periods, or bending frequently can put extra strain on a pregnant woman’s body.

This physical exertion can lead to muscle fatigue and pain in various parts of the body, including the back, legs, and feet.

8. Changes in Sleeping Positions

As pregnancy progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Many women experience pain due to awkward sleeping positions or from spending too much time in one position. The added weight and changing body shape can also contribute to discomfort during sleep.

What is a Pregnancy Pillow?

A pregnancy pillow is a specially designed pillow that provides support to various parts of the body during pregnancy. These pillows come in different shapes and sizes, each aimed at addressing specific discomforts.

Here are the different types of pregnancy pillows:

  1. Wedge Pillow: A small, compact pillow that supports the belly or back.
  2. Full-Length Pillow: A long pillow, often known as Body Pillow, that runs the length of your body, offering support to the back, belly, and legs.
  3. C-Shaped Pillow: Curves around the body to support the head, back, belly, and legs.
  4. U-Shaped Pillow: Offers full-body support by surrounding the body from the front and back.


Can I use a pregnancy pillow to reduce back pain?

Yes, pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to support the changing body during pregnancy, providing relief from back pain. They help maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce the strain on your back muscles by supporting your belly and other parts of your body.

What types of pregnancy pillows are best for reducing pain?

There are several types of pregnancy pillows that can help reduce pain:
U-Shaped Pillows: Provide support to the head, neck, back, and belly, offering full-body relief.
C-Shaped Pillows: Support the head, neck, back, and legs, helping to align the spine.
Wedge Pillows: Offer targeted support to the belly or back.
Full-Length Pillows: Can be placed alongside the body to support the back, belly, and legs.

How should I position a pregnancy pillow to alleviate pain?

Back Pain: Use a U-shaped or C-shaped pillow to support both your back and belly simultaneously, or place a wedge pillow under your belly while sleeping on your side.
Hip Pain: Place a full-length pillow between your knees to maintain hip alignment and reduce pressure on your joints.
Neck and Shoulder Pain: Ensure the pillow supports your neck and shoulders properly, keeping them aligned with your spine.
Pelvic Pain: Use a wedge pillow under your belly to elevate it slightly, reducing pressure on your pelvic region.

When should I start using a pregnancy pillow?

You can start using a pregnancy pillow as soon as you begin to feel discomfort or when you find it difficult to maintain a comfortable sleeping position. Many women find it beneficial to start using one in the second trimester, when the belly starts to grow significantly.

Can I use a pregnancy pillow after giving birth?

Yes, pregnancy pillows can be used after giving birth to provide support during breastfeeding, help alleviate postpartum back pain, and offer comfort while resting. They can also be useful for supporting your baby during tummy time or as a cushion for sitting.

Do pregnancy pillows help with other types of pain?

In addition to back, hip, and pelvic pain, pregnancy pillows can help alleviate leg cramps, shoulder pain, and even improve circulation by keeping your body in a comfortable and supportive position.

Are pregnancy pillows safe to use throughout the entire pregnancy?

Yes, pregnancy pillows are designed to be safe and beneficial throughout the entire pregnancy. However, it's essential to choose a pillow that feels comfortable and provides the necessary support as your body changes. Consult with your healthcare provider if you have specific concerns or conditions that may affect your choice of pillow.

Can a pregnancy pillow help improve sleep quality?

Yes, by providing proper support and alignment, pregnancy pillows can help improve sleep quality. They reduce discomfort and allow you to maintain a comfortable sleeping position, leading to more restful and uninterrupted sleep.

Can I use regular pillows instead of a pregnancy pillow?

While regular pillows can provide some support, pregnancy pillows are specifically designed to address the unique needs and discomforts of pregnancy. They offer targeted support and are more effective in maintaining proper alignment and reducing pain.


A pregnancy pillow can be an effective tool in reducing pain and discomfort during pregnancy. By providing targeted support to various parts of the body, these pillows help improve sleep quality, alleviate back and hip pain, and enhance overall comfort.

Choosing the right pregnancy pillow tailored to your needs can make a significant difference in your pregnancy experience, allowing you to rest better and enjoy this special time.

If you’re experiencing pregnancy-related pain, consider incorporating a pregnancy pillow into your sleep routine to help manage and reduce discomfort.

Always consult with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re using the pillow correctly and to address any specific concerns you may have.

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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