Updated July 26, 2019
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What are the benefits of a full-body pregnancy pillow?
A full body pregnancy pillow can be extremely comforting when dealing with low back pain during pregnancy. Furthermore, if you have a twin pregnancy or chronic back pain, the benefits of a pregnancy pillow can be life-changing.
Carrying so much frontal weight during pregnancy can cause significant low back strain, especially with twins and triplets. The muscles in the back have to work hard to stabilize your core and maintain your posture.
The most important reason you want to support your back is that the weight exerted on your lower back is much greater than the weight of the pregnancy itself.
During the day, if you experience tension in your back, a maternity support belt can do wonders. Maternity belts are very effective and will be discussed in detail in a future post.
If you are using a pregnancy pillow to treat low back pain during pregnancy, it is important to make sure the cause of your low back pain is related to the hormonal and anatomical changes associated with pregnancy.
Once your doctor has evaluated your back, ask if a pregnancy pillow would help your situation.
There are many benefits of a full-body pregnancy pillow. These large-sized pillows help to give proper support to the belly during pregnancy. Pregnant women swear by their pillows. The comfort is a complete game-changer.
Pregnancy pillows can also be used after pregnancy to give the support you need while the ligaments (particularly in your pelvis and lower back) start to tighten up.
Those suffering from neck and back pain or insomnia from various causes of sleep disturbance can finally experience quality sleep for a prolonged period of time. This allows the body to get into the most therapeutic deep sleep known as REM sleep.
Another benefit of the full body pregnancy pillow is how easily it can be repositioned to use while watching television, chatting with family or friends or just relaxing at home.
Women can sleep in a half fetal position using the pregnancy pillow which is supposed to be the most comfortable position for sleeping during pregnancy. The full-body pillows enable pregnant women to be relieved of the pressure and pain associated with the growing size of the tummy.
Using these pillows, women can sleep on their sides comfortably instead of sleeping directly against their belly.
Body pillows offer the much-needed support to other parts of the body as well namely the shoulders, neck, back and the legs. Users can enjoy a better sleep in a cost-effective way with the help of these pillows that are widely available these days.
Pregnant women can choose proper body pillowcases or body pillow covers to go with these pillows. Since these pillows come with sufficient stuffing, it can give you comfortable rest always.
For pregnant women, the best position of sleeping is sideways and body pillows enable women to sleep comfortably in this way. So you need not worry about sleeping with a wrong pillow or in a wrong position when you are making use of body pillows.
Full body pregnancy pillows come in several materials namely latex, foam, polyester, feather filling, memory foam, and others. Each one has its own advantages and can be used to relieve pain from different areas of the body.
Pregnant women can choose buckwheat pillows or memory foam pillows which can be adapted to their bodily changes. Since they can offer a comfortable position, the body pillows can be used even long after the baby’s delivery.
The full body pregnancy pillow helps to maintain proper spinal alignment. This optimal positioning of the back helps to alleviate pain associated with the legs, hips and lower back.
How do you use a pregnancy pillow?
Pregnancy pillows are therapeutic in many ways and there has been a growing number of expecting moms who want to know how to use a pregnancy a pillow. In fact, it is the number one question about pregnancy pillows online.
However, if you are considering a pregnancy pillow to treat a particular condition, you will want to be more selective and ask your doctor, who is aware of your medical history and the pregnancy-related problem you are trying to manage.
When learning how to use a pregnancy pillow it is important to choose the right pillow from the start.
By researching the types of pillows, you will learn how the different pillows are used and for what health conditions they are best suited to treat, pregnancy-related or not.
The following are a few conditions where a pregnancy pillow may be helpful:
- Low Back Pain
- Hip Pain
- Sciatic Pain
- Neck Pain
- Chronic Neck and Back Pain
- Joint Pain Resulting From Carrying A Multiple Pregnancy
By using a pregnancy pillow consistently it has been shown that the pillow can help relieve lower back pain (source) and sciatic pain. With an improvement in these symptoms, your sleep quality and duration will often improve as well.
Much like the equipment used by a physical therapist, the pregnancy pillow is very simple and yet can be very effective.
What matters most is that the pillow is used correctly and consistently. Often times physical therapists only need to use repetition and the forces of gravity to treat a musculoskeletal problem and the results can be miraculous.
*It is interesting to note that physical therapists train for 5 years. This is because the focus of their training is not on the use of high tech medical devices. They are trained in gaining an in-depth understanding of anatomy and the function of the musculoskeletal system.
Granted, the pillows offer tremendous comfort, but the real benefit is how they can resolve a medical problem and give long-term relief.
There are two main changes that occur during pregnancy that contribute to the aches and pains associated with pregnancy, assuming there is not an underlying medical condition:
1. Hormonal changes:
Pregnancy is associated with many hormonal changes. Two hormones specifically affect the muscles and joints during pregnancy:
- Progestin – Relaxes smooth muscle
- Relaxin – Softens Ligaments
2. Anatomic changes:
The anatomic changes are largely due to the increased pregnancy weight and distribution of weight requiring the body to make compensatory changes to maintain posture and balance. Along this same line, a condition called diastasis recti can develop.
This involves the abdominal muscles and occurs when the abdominal wall muscles start to separate in the midline. This leads to instability and can impact bodily functions because of the loss of core muscle support. The pressures in the abdomen can impact the ability to lift heavy objects and have a bowel movement.
Diastasis recti can also contribute to low back pain.
The combined effect of the hormonal and anatomic changes during pregnancy results causes joints to become loose and unstable, particularly involving the pelvis and lower back.
This results in a number of maternal changes most moms or moms-to-be can relate to:
- Swayback in the lumbar region resulting in low back pain
- Sciatic pain with impingement on the sciatic nerve leading to symptoms of numbness and pain radiating down the outside of the hip and leg
- Instability, as the pelvic girdle becomes loose in preparation for childbirth. It can become severe enough to make you feel unstable on your feet.
- Many other non-specific musculoskeletal symptoms as a result of the impingement on nerves coursing through joints in an unstable skeletal system. These changes do correct after childbirth.
So what are the different types of pregnancy pillows and which one will best suit your particular needs?
Long before there were what we now call “pregnancy pillows”, there was the full-body pillow. Once it was realized how these pillows could benefit women during pregnancy, the pregnancy pillow was born.
Within no time many design variations were developed to address various muscle and joint problems associated with pregnancy.
*Because the pillows are so comfortable, many non-pregnant men and women use these pillows as well.
For each pillow design, we have chosen one of the more popular pillows (not the only pillow) as an example. There are now numerous types of pillows to choose from and many manufacturers.
When I first started a medical practice in the 1980s, pregnancy pillows did not exist.
U-shaped – QUEEN ROSE Full Body Pregnancy Pillow
The U-shaped pillow is the largest pregnancy pillow and may not be the most practical for everyone. It is best for those who tend to change position a lot while sleeping. This pillow offers the most overall support for back-sleepers, keeping in mind that the left-sided sleep position is the preferred position to optimize maternal-fetal circulation. The pillow is a very popular choice for tall women and offers many of the benefits of a full-body pregnancy pillow.
This is the most popular type of pregnancy pillow. It gives support to the neck, back, and pelvic area. If you have twins this style pillow helps alleviate the back pain associated with carrying a twin pregnancy. Though it is best to sleep on your left side during pregnancy, if you change your sleep position often during the night c-shaped pillow may not be the pillow for you.
WEDGE SHAPED – Pregnancy Pillow Wedge for Maternity | Memory Foam
Wedge-shaped pillows are best for those who want more support for their abdomen, especially during the third trimester. It is best for those who do not change their sleep position frequently during the night. In addition, it is very easy to take on work trips and vacations.
KNEE PILLOW – Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow
The knee pillow is thought to be an excellent choice for sciatic pain. It maintains the proper spacing between your legs and keeps the legs, hips, and spine aligned. The pillow is very affordable and offers the necessary benefits of a pregnancy pillow. Like the wedge pillow, it is easy to transport. In fact, a great combination would be the knee and wedge pillow to address your specific needs. These are ideal if space is limited or if you travel frequently.
FULL BODY PREGNANCY PILLOW – Onory Full Body Pregnancy Pillow
The full body pregnancy pillow has been customized in many ways to address specific needs. The Onory pillow featured above is basically a U-Shaped pillow. The only difference is how it is contoured to fit the shape of your body in the left-sided sleeping position. This offers optimal support.
SIDE SLEEPER PREGNANCY PILLOW – Boppy Side Sleeper Pregnancy Pillow
Side-sleeper pregnancy pillows are simple and yet very useful. They help you maintain the proper left-sided sleep position. This is important because research left side during pregnancy is best for the maternal-fetal circulation to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. (see Fetal Circulation). The Boppy Side Sleeper is one example of this type of pillow. Like the wedge and knee pillows, this is another pillow that is also easily transported for work travel or vacations.
Matter what pregnancy pillow you choose, virtually all of them will serve some basic needs that can alleviate discomfort and result in a better night’s sleep:
- Promote proper left-sided positioning for optimal maternal-fetal circulation
- Provide comfort to treat insomnia so you can get quality sleep for a longer duration
- Support the areas of your body that are strained during pregnancy. Particularly the ligaments in the lumbar portion of your back that are under constant pressure to support the frontal weight of your pregnancy.
- To align the skeletal system in the spine, hips and back to alleviate pain associated with impingement on nerves. A common nerve involved is the sciatic nerve which results in sciatic pain.
In addition to the benefits listed above, choosing the best pillow will also be based on some basic information you can gather at your prenatal visit. These factors include:
- Your height and weight
- If you are carrying multiples (twins, triplets)
- Whether you are getting a pillow for the treatment of a specific pregnancy-related symptom or simply for added comfort while sleeping.
- If you have an underlying medical condition that affects your musculoskeletal system.
- If you have a history of trauma or surgery to treat a back or pelvic injury.
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