All pregnant people deserve quality rest, whether it is for several hours at night or a 20-minute catnap (or three) during the day. But growing a human is often an uncomfortable experience, making restful sleep tricky. Laura Erlich, fertility and obstetric specialist and founder of Mother Nurture Wellness, explains that “when it comes to pregnancy, sleep needs may change as the weeks tick by. Early pregnancy doesn’t usually require any changes to your sleep style, but as the belly grows, adjustments may be necessary,” including sleeping on your side instead of your back. Pregnancy pillows are designed to support your hips, legs, and back — the parts of your body that tend to hold the most stress — and Elrich says they are useful for “keeping your hips aligned, a key to keeping the low back stable and pain-free.”
Most pillows that are marketed as pregnancy pillows are very large and deliver full-body support by way of U, C, or J shapes that help provide localized pressure relief to different parts of your body. However, some pregnant people find that slimmer rectangular body pillows and wedge-shaped pillows get the job done without taking up too much space in their bed. No matter which shape you choose, the main purpose of a pregnancy pillow is to bring your head, neck, spine, and hips into a neutral position.
To that end, while hugging a squishy soft pillow might sound the most appealing, Seth Davis, sleep consultant and founder of Sleepably, explains that firmer pillows are usually the way to go. “Firm pillows are a great option for full-body support because they do a better job of supporting people during the night,” he says. “Because they are firmer, they are better at providing head and neck support, helping you maintain healthy body alignment during sleep, preventing unnecessary movements, and taking pressure off of your joints.” Soft pillows aren’t totally out of the question, though. Davis explains that soft pillows can be comfortable and still offer a lower level of support that suits your needs.
The Strategist talked to Davis, Elrich, and four other experts about the pregnancy pillows they recommend, plus I tested a few myself to find the best ones to snuggle up with for nine months and beyond.
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Carleara Weiss, Ph.D., a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and adviser to Pluto Pillow, explains that “pillows of different shapes and sizes have a different impact on sleep,” and that impact will vary according to the areas covered, such as the side or the back of the head, the side of the body, and part of the shoulders and arms. Unlike bed pillows that are commonly limited to some form of a rectangle, pregnancy pillows come in various shapes and sizes to help target pains and aches associated with pregnancy. Here’s how they break down.
U-shaped: These extra-large pillows provide head-to-toe support, which can come in especially handy in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Some U-shaped pillows feature a contoured curve that mimics the shape of a pregnancy bump, while others are more like a folded spaghetti noodle. Whichever you choose, U-shaped pillows “are great for side sleepers who flip from side to side frequently, as you don’t have to move pillows back and forth,” Erlich explains.
C-shaped: A C shape also provides extended support when compared to a standard rectangular body pillow. “C-shaped pillows work similarly to U-shaped but without the second side. They take up less space and can move easily with you,” explains Erlich. Since the second side of the pillow isn’t there, you will have to shift a C-shaped pillow from one side of your body to the other if you want to alternate between back support and belly support.
J-shaped: Shaped like a candy cane, the curve of J-shaped pillows can provide “added support between the legs, helping to keep the hips properly spaced to support the lower back,” says Erlich. You can also flip them around to use the curve of the J underneath your head.
Wedge: In contrast to the other options, a wedge is for localized support. Shaped like a chunk of fancy aged cheese, you can slide this type of pillow under your bump, under your lower back, or between your thighs or knees for extra support. They tend to be smaller, which is great if you are working with limited or shared sleeping space.
Fill type and firmness
As with your regular bed pillows and mattress, the type of fill in your pregnancy pillow matters. According to Weiss, the best pillows for pregnancy are medium-firm, so they are “soft enough to be comfortable but sturdy enough to support body weight overnight without flattening out.” This level of firmness is typically achieved with polyfill, memory foam, microfiber, or latex — or a mix of a few of these fill types.
Bed pillows typically stick to a handful of sizes that range from standard to king, but pregnancy pillows can vary in length and width depending on the shape. While an oversize pillow will definitely offer you the most full-body support, it will also take up a lot of real estate in your bed. Additionally, large C- and U-shaped pillows tend to be quite bulky, so lugging them from your bed to your couch and back again when you’re in your third trimester can be quite the task. Smaller pillows like wedges and standard body pillows will leave plenty of room in your bed, but you are swapping head-to-toe support for that extra space.
Best overall pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Poly-fill | Shape: U | Size: 31 by 55, 60, or 65 inches | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Contoured to gently hug your body, the Queen Rose pregnancy pillow will be especially useful from the second trimester onward. Sleep consultant Kelly Murray explains that U-shaped pillows like this one are great for anyone, pregnant or otherwise, who “experiences pain on a higher level and wants to feel supported all over — “especially those well into their pregnancy, those with sciatica, lumbar pain, and neck pain combinations.” Stuffed with poly-fill, the pillow is firm enough to keep your limbs supported, and its cover can be tossed in the wash to keep maintenance low key. It also comes in three lengths, so you can choose the one that will best suit your height.
Best contoured pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Polyester fiber fill | Shape: C | Size: 25 by 48 inches | Firmness: Medium | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
One of the major downsides to full-body pregnancy pillows is that they eat up so much of the space in your bed, which can be a pain for your partner, pets, or anyone you may be sharing your bed with. This pregnancy pillow by Boppy has a slightly shorter profile, and the super-narrow middle section allows you to secure the top portion under your upper body and the lower part between your legs without taking up as much extra room. The slim C-shaped pillow has a contoured curve to let you curl your body around it, which Murray explains is the best way to use a body or pregnancy pillow. “The shape you’re going for is a modified fetal position, just like when we were in the womb. You want a gentle extension of your spine through your tailbone and also through your neck,” to avoid putting pressure on the lumbar spine, she explains. When you’re awake, the pillow’s narrow middle section allows you to fold and twist the pillow so that you can use it as a nursing pillow or for back support while sitting.
Best C-shaped pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Polyester | Shape: C | Size: 57 by 36 by 7 inches | Firmness: Medium firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
The CeeCee pillow by PharMeDoc has a comforting C shape that can be wrapped around your bump or used to add support along your spine. The firm polyfill pillow has an organic cotton cover that can be easily removed and washed. With the same fill type (polyester fiber) and a similar firmness to the Queen Rose pillow, the CeeCee’s smaller profile offers necessary support without taking up as much space in your bed. You can also twist this pillow around your waist for lumbar support while you are sitting upright or use it to elevate potentially swollen ankles and feet.
Best U-shaped pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Cooling gel or natural latex | Shape: U | Size: 28.5 by 55 inches | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Erlich explains that U-shaped pillows “are great for side sleepers who flip from side to side frequently, as you don’t have to move pillows back and forth.” The Yana pillow has a contoured U shape that is designed to hug the natural curves of your body. The semi-flexible pillow can be tied, twirled, twisted, and used while sleeping, sitting, or just lounging. California-based doula Carson Meyer told us the Yana is her preferred pregnancy pillow because “it folds up perfectly in bed and feels so supportive.” The brand offers two fill types — cooling gel or natural latex — and both are adjustable to make the pillow firmer or softer. The pillow has a machine-washable cover, and the brand notes that it can be “tied in a decorative knot for compact storage when not in use.”
Best J-shaped pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Synthetic fiber fill | Shape: J | Size: 28 by 40 inches | Firmness: Medium firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
The hook of a J-shaped pillow can “support the neck or knees for side sleepers” says Weiss, which is helpful since side sleeping is the recommended position for pregnant people. You can place the hook between your legs for proper alignment of your knees and hips, or under your head as you hug the pillow for support. This Momcozy option also has a contoured shape along its inside edge, so you can more easily pull it close to your body.
Best wedge pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Memory foam | Shape: Wedge | Size: 15 by 13 inches | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Versatile and portable, wedge pillows can be used in conjunction with another pillow or on their own to provide localized support for your legs, hips, belly, or back. This double-sided wedge-style pillow features soft, moldable memory foam on one side and firmer foam on the other so that the pillow can fit your needs as your bump grows. The wedge can be placed under your bump for support or under your lower back to prevent you from rolling onto your back while you’re snoozing. While the larger pillows on this list offer full-body support, this wedge is much smaller and targeted. It measures 13.25 by 15 by 4.5 inches, so you can toss it in a bag, carry-on, or diaper bag to use on the go.
Best pregnancy pillow for back sleepers
Fill type: Polyester fiber | Shape: Dual wedge | Size: 14 by 24 inches | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Sleeping on your side is really the only option available once your bump begins to expand, and this pregnancy pillow by Boppy is created to support you in that position. Weiss explains that “the ideal pillow should provide spinal alignment for side sleeping, comfort, and stability without flattening out during the night,” and this dual wedge pillow has a stretchy middle panel that connects the two wedges to help you to stay in the side-sleeping position. It’s a smaller pillow that provides more isolated support for your bump and your lower back.
Best pregnancy pillow for back sleepers
Fill type: Polyurethane foam | Shape: Dual wedge | Size: Adjustable | Firmness: Medium firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Doctors generally recommend avoiding back sleeping later in your pregnancy. For die-hard back sleepers, snoozing on your side can be a rough but necessary transition. Personal trainer Holly Roser says that rolling onto your back to sleep “can put too much pressure on your vena cava,” which carries blood to your heart, so using a pregnancy or body pillow can help keep you on your side. The unique shape of the Belly Bandit SOS Side Sleeper pillow gently locks you into a side sleeping position while also supporting your lower spine and belly. The three-piece pillow has a velcro strap that lays under your body, a tall triangular wedge pillow that is placed behind your back to prevent you from rolling, and a flatter wedge pillow that is placed under your belly for sturdy support. The two pillows can be moved along the velcro strap to accommodate your belly as you get further into your pregnancy. This pillow is similar to the Boppy Side Sleeper pillow but is a better option if you want firmer support and a customizable design that will easily expand with your bump. The solid polyurethane foam pillows are protected by stretchy covers that can be removed and washed.
Best convertible-shape pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Memory foam and fiber cluster blend | Shape: U, C, or J | Size: 55 by 31 inches | Firmness: Medium plush | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
The pillow you need at the start of your pregnancy may differ from the one you prefer by the 40th week, and this all-in-one convertible design can help the whole way through. You can change the pillow from a U-shape to a J-shape by unzipping and removing the long-armed end, which itself works as a more traditional body pillow. I am currently pregnant, and when I was only just starting to show, the entire pillow felt too large to actually be useful — so I slept with only the detachable piece. Once I was a couple months out from my due date and my belly required more support, the full U-shape became indispensable.
Filled with a memory-foam and fiber-cluster blend, the pillow has a lofty, plush feel that gently cushions my thighs and legs without propping my top leg up too high while I sleep on my side. The width of the pillow’s arms is substantial — about ten inches each — so it’s very supportive. Since my dog likes to sleep in my bed and on my pillows, I’ve washed the cover at least five times over the last two months, and it’s held up well without pilling.
Best one-piece convertible-shape pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Polystyrene Foam Beads | Shape: Rectangular | Size: 9 by 54 inches | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Filled with polystyrene microbeads (kind of like a beanbag chair), this extra-flexible Frida Mom pregnancy pillow has a memory foam-like responsiveness but is more breathable as heat is able to dissipate easily, which Murray says is an essential component of quality sleep. “Our core body temperature must lower by a couple of degrees Fahrenheit in order to synthesize melatonin at night to help us fall asleep and stay asleep, so it’s really important that the body pillow you choose doesn’t make you too hot,” Murray explains. With a customizable design, the pillow looks slightly like an earthworm, with a short, tapered end on one side and a fuller, longer end on the other. The ends are separated by an adjustable strip that allows you to twist and fold the pillow into a C shape, U shape, I shape, or J shape. One side of this compact pillow has a soft, stretchy material that gives to the weight of your body, while the non-stretch side offers a firmer surface for more support.
When I initially slept with this pillow, I was already about eight months pregnant and thought it wasn’t large enough to support my bump. But then I gave it another try when I was about a week from my due date, and found it more comfortable once I twisted and adjusted the shorter end to transform it into a J shape. This configuration shuffled the microbeads into the longer end for a firmer, more supportive feel, which is what I needed at that stage, and left the tapered end to hook between my legs. The cool and smooth material was a major plus, especially with end-of-pregnancy sweating cropping up in the middle of the night. If you prefer a plush, cushiony, traditional pillow-like feel, this one probably won’t be for you as the fill is basically identical to that of a bean bag — which can take some getting used to. However, the microbeads have a fluidity that makes adjusting the pillow from firm to soft much easier.
This pillow is on the smaller side, which means some of the formations will target your bump more than your entire body. And while it can be configured into different shapes like the Newton pillow, it is more of a squish-and-fold versus the zip-off style of the Newton.
Best adjustable-firmness pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Biofoam beads | Shape: Cylindrical | Size: 7.5 by 59 inches | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
As your body changes, it will likely require different levels of support. That’s where this body pillow with an adjustable firmness level can be useful. According to Murray, adjustability is nonnegotiable, and she “wouldn’t buy a body pillow that doesn’t allow for adjusting it on your own.” The inner pillow of the Bbhugme is filled with Biofoam beads, which are made from planet-friendly vegetable-based biopolymers (read: more Earth-friendly bean bag fill). Made to cradle your belly while supporting your lower back, pelvis, ankles, and knees, the pillow’s unique design features two silicone “pebbles” for super-easy adjusting. For a firmer pillow, push the pebbles toward the center to compress the filling, and for a softer pillow, pull the pebbles further apart so the bead filling is more spread out. The design is similar to that of the Frida Mom maternity pillow, but since it has the pebbles to clamp either end instead of a twist-and-bend format, the shape is less customizable. The pillow comes in a range of sophisticated colors and prints, and the cover is machine-washable.
Best memory-foam pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Cross-cut memory foam and microfiber | Shape: Cylinder | Size: 9 by 60 inches | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
Filled with the same cross-cut-memory-foam-and-microfiber blend as our top-pick bed pillows, this Coop Home body pillow can be adjusted to create a softer or firmer feel by adding or removing fill. Plus the simple tubular shape will be easier to fit into a smaller sleeping space. Davis notes that, even without a contoured shape, “you can hug it, place it between your knees, and place your head on it like the other options.” The pillow comes with a machine-washable cover and the memory foam is CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold Certified.
I slept on this maternity pillow in the early months of my pregnancy, and the wide cylindrical shape was comforting and allowed me to prop up my top leg while sleeping on my side, so my hips didn’t feel cramped. The amount of fill that came in the pillow gave it a medium-firm density that really allowed me to lean into it and feel supported. And since it is one of the longer options on this list, being able to wrap my legs around the pillow and hug it against my body, especially during waves of nausea, helped get me through the first half of pregnancy. The pillow is long and flexible enough to bend into essentially any shape, and if you prefer a firmer or softer pillow, you can add or remove fill. (The pillow doesn’t ship with additional fill, but you can purchase extra bags of Coop’s firm-density fill, cooling-gel-infused fill, or standard medium-firm fill.)
Best down-alternative pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Hypoallergenic microfiber fill | Shape: Rectangular | Size: 20 by 54 inches | Firmness: Plush | Care instructions: Machine washable cover
During her first and second pregnancies, Strategist senior editor Winnie Yang tried both precarious stacks of regular bed pillows and a traditional C-shaped pillow that she ultimately found “annoying to wrestle into place.” On top of that, the C-shaped pillow’s typical polyblend cover wasn’t breathable — making the pregnancy sweats worse. But for her third pregnancy, Yang opted for Parachute’s down-alternative body pillow. “This pillow is exactly what I had hoped for: soft, lofty, airy, and cooling when I feel overly warm, warm and comforting when I feel a little cold, and easy to maneuver into place,” Yang says. The pillow contains cushy, hypoallergenic microfiber fill that gives it a fluffy downlike feel. Yang also appreciates that Parachute sells vintage-looking linen covers in six colors (for an additional $109), which she says make the pillow more presentable to leave out during the day.
Best pregnancy pillow for tall people
Fill type: Polyester fiber | Shape: U | Size: 31 by 65 inches | Firmness: Adjustable | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
This 65-inch pregnancy pillow can provide support for anyone who’s taller than average, measuring nearly a foot longer than many of the other traditional U- and C-shaped pregnancy pillows on this list. The lengthy pillow has a polyester fiber filling, making it firm and comfortable. If the pillow arrives too firm, you can remove some of the filling to make it more flexible and soft. The large U shape can be used as a leg, hip, belly, head, and neck support, and the cover is machine washable.
Best bolster-shape pregnancy pillow
Fill type: Melofoam | Shape: Cylindrical | Size: 75 by 82 inches | Firmness: Firm | Care instructions: Machine-washable cover
The Bearaby Cuddler has an extra-long profile that makes it particularly versatile. Constructed of super-springy Melofoam, which is a natural latex constructed from the sap of rubber trees, the pillow offers responsive and consistent support. The pillow can be wrapped, stacked, tied, and folded for use in any body position, whether you’re watching television on the couch, lounging or reading in bed, or sleeping. Slimmer than traditional pregnancy pillows, you can transition the Cuddler into a standard body pillow once you are postpartum, without it taking up too much space in your bed. I used the Bearaby Cuddler as a general body pillow before transitioning it into the early stages of my pregnancy, and it is unlike any other body pillow I’ve ever tried. The slim, noodle-like profile and uniquely buoyant feel of the Melofoam provide great support for my legs and hips. As the longest pillow on our list, it is also a good option for taller people who want head-to-toe support. Similar to an extra-long bolster pillow, you can make it a part of your décor instead of packing it away at the end of your pregnancy. The pillow comes with an organic-cotton cover that can be machine washed, or you can purchase a stylish knitted cover (available in five colors) for an extra $125.
• Seth Davis, sleep consultant and founder of Sleepably
• Laura Erlich, fertility and obstetric specialist and founder of Mother Nurture Wellness
• Carson Meyer, doula
• Kelly Murray, sleep consultant
• Holly Roser, personal trainer
• Carleara Weiss, member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and adviser to Pluto Pillow
• Winnie Yang, Strategist senior editor
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