Getting good sleep is tough during pregnancy. Your body is more exhausted than ever from the work of growing a tiny human, but common symptoms like nausea, heartburn, anxiety, and the frequent need to pee can keep you up at all hours. And then there’s the simple fact that it’s almost impossible to get comfortable once any sort of baby bump starts to form. That’s what makes pregnancy pillows such useful tools in the quest for second- and third-trimester sleep: A good pregnancy pillow can support your growing belly and alleviate some of the pressure on your hips and back, so you get some much-needed rest.
The Expert: I’m a longtime runner who used to consider nine hours of uninterrupted sleep my secret training strength. All that changed, of course, with the beginning of my first pregnancy last fall—now I feel happy with any amount of sleep at all. Pregnancy pillows have certainly been a source of relief for sleeping on my side. However, I’m also familiar with their oversize downsides. Four years ago, when my wife was pregnant, she replaced at least half of my side of the bed with her own rotating array of enormous, C-shaped pillows. So, I find myself in the odd position of being able to speak to both the use of the pillows and their effects on bedmates. In my decades-worth of experience conducting hands-on product testing for Runner’s World, Bicycling, and other outlets, this is potentially the first time I’ve both actively and passively tested a product—so I feel certain I know what to look for in a good pregnancy pillow.
Features to Consider When Shopping for a Pregnancy Pillow
Shape and Size
The first thing you’ll notice when searching for a pregnancy pillow is the range of sizes and shapes available. Larger, full-body pregnancy pillows tend to take the form of a U or C shape, so they can wrap around your body and hug you from all sides. This general shape can provide lots of support for your back, hips, knees, and neck while you sleep on your side—but will also take up a lot of bed space and feel either cozy and nest-like or downright stifling, depending on your sleep style. Smaller pregnancy pillows also accommodate side sleep, but they tend to support only your bump and possibly your knees. The upsides are that they allow for more flexibility when trying to re-situate during the night and are easier to transport and reposition. Still other pregnancy pillows are shaped to support face-down sleepers without creating any pressure on the belly. These pillows will likely be oversize and uncomfortable for all but dedicated stomach sleepers.
Almost all pregnancy pillows are designed with a machine-washable cover made of either cotton, polyester, or some blend of the two. In general, cotton tends to be cooler and more breathable than polyester, which can trap heat. Cotton can also feel more comfortable; however, polyester dries more quickly and tends to be more durable over time. Jersey is a stretchy knit fabric that feels soft and usually consists of a blend of cotton, wool, and polyester or other synthetic fabrics. All the pillows selected here have covers that are designed to feel soft against your skin; most can be easily removed for machine-washing.
How We Evaluated
I’m currently in my second trimester and seeking relief for not just poor-quality sleep but also severe round ligament pain—a jabbing sensation that causes further discomfort every time I settle down onto the bed or couch with an unsupported belly. To evaluate these pillows, I personally tested a few, and for others I relied on input from my wife, who experimented with a couple of these pillows during her own pregnancy. I also reached out to my network for recommendations, and scoured online reviews. Ultimately, I found seven pillows that I feel provide the best combination of value, comfort, performance, and ease of use.
- Soft fabric
- Covers entire body
- Easy to position in different shapes for best support
- Might replace your spouse in bed
- Size: 60 x 24.75 x 7.25 in.
- Weight: 5.5 lb.
- Fabric: Available in 300-thread-count cotton, polyester, soft jersey material, and poly-cotton blend
The closest thing to a household name in the pregnancy pillow world, the “Snoogle” is a C-shaped body pillow designed to follow the natural shape of your body as you sleep—whether you prefer to spoon it, let it spoon you, or just pile it up into one big cloudlike nest to rest on. Be warned that the Snoogle is generous in size—when my wife was pregnant and using one, I grew to resent the pillow after watching it consume a good two-thirds of our full-sized bed. But if you sleep on a king or queen, it’s likely worth the imposition for the soft, structured support. The Snoogle has a zippered removable cover that comes in several fabric options: 300-thread-count cotton, polyester, soft jersey material, or a poly-cotton blend. The Snoogle is also available in other configurations, such as the Snoogle Back ’N Belly and the Snoogle Mini, which is half the length and half the price.
- Soft jersey fabric
- Can shape it to get the support you need
- Filling can shift inside cover
- Takes up a lot of bed space
- Size: 58 x 28 x 7.8 in.
- Weight: 6 lb.
- Fabric: Jersey cotton
Insen’s body pillow sports a similar C-shaped profile and gargantuan size as the better-known Snoogle—but at a slightly lower price. It’s a bit shorter in length and thicker than the Snoogle, which could be considered pros or cons, depending on your bed size and need for support. Much like the Snoogle, this body pillow can be shaped to form a nest for sleeping or lounging. The soft jersey cover zips and unzips easily so you can wash it. The only downside to this well-reviewed pillow: Some users have complained that the filling inside bunches up.
- Shredded memory foam interior
- Supports you from both sides
- Quality-control issues
- Large size
- Size: 19.1 x 13.04 x 9.03 in.
- Weight: 8.78 lb.
- Fabric: Cotton
If a C-shaped pillow isn’t cutting it for you, consider this U-shaped pillow, which allows you to nestle between two columns of soft, squishy memory foam. Find a cozy place to rest your belly no matter which side you roll onto—Milliard’s body pillow works for side, back, and stomach sleepers, as well as anyone who just wants to lounge in a full-body nest of compressive cushion. Once again, our only caveat is that the sheer size of the pillow is guaranteed to alienate your spouse. However, provided you can carve out enough space for everyone in the bed, you should be able to get well-supported sleep from this.
- Supports your belly
- Smaller size
- More transportable
- Doesn’t provide the full-body support of a C- or U-shaped pillow
- Size: 20 x 16 x 5.5 in.
- Weight: 2.72 lb.
- Fabric: Available in polyester, rayon, and cotton
The Boppy brand is best known for its ubiquitous nursing pillows, which encircle your waist and make it easier to feed an infant—and then later support your baby in early efforts to sit. This comma-shaped pregnancy pillow from the brand is excellent for providing contoured belly support without dominating your sleep space the way full-body models tend to. The pillow is designed to support the bellies of side sleepers without replacing your regular head pillow. Both the soft poly-cotton slipcover and polyester-bamboo pillow itself are machine-washable, so the whole setup is easy to maintain. My favorite feature is its compact size: The pillow provides lots of cushy support without infringing on my partner’s side of the bed, and it’s easy to transfer between the bed and couch.
- Allows you to roll over and sleep on either side
- Won’t allow back sleep
- Size: 14.25 x 6.25 x 13 in.
- Weight: 1.79 lb.
- Fabric: Polyester
True to its name, Boppy’s Side Sleeper is designed to give your bump a place to rest while you’re nestled to one side. Shaped almost like a dumbbell, the pillow has two bulbous pillow ends connected by a flatter center piece. The beauty of the design is that it stays in place while you toss, turn, and endlessly re-situate overnight. It also provides plenty of support without being so oversize that your partner starts to begrudge your pursuit of prenatal comfort. The pillow’s shape prevents back sleep, so it will retrain you to sleep on one side or the other, even if you’re not a side sleeper by nature; however, if you’re determined to sleep on your back, you might find it to be uncomfortable.
- Lots of color options
- Full-body U shape with detachable portion
- Takes up a lot of bed space
- Size: 53 x 31 x 7 in.
- Weight: 6.5 lb.
- Fabric: Jersey cotton
Another full-body pillow option, this model distinguishes itself by a U shape that includes contoured body curves on one side and a flat piece on the other side, so you have maximum options for comfortable positioning. That flat piece is also detachable, so you can remove it entirely or position it where you want. Like similarly shaped models, it takes up significant space on the bed, but with that size comes relief and support from your head and neck down through your hips. The cover is made of soft, jersey-knit material and is easy to remove for machine washing.
- Allows you to sleep comfortably on your belly
- Two cutout sizes
- Cutout might not be large enough for the biggest bumps
- Doesn’t conform to your body the way a normal pillow would
- Size: 12 x 10 x 3 in.
- Weight: 4.49 lb.
- Fabric: Plastic
The Cozy Bump is a commitment—a commitment to finding a comfortable sleep position at all costs, even if it means essentially sleeping on an inflatable raft. But what the sleeper lacks in compactness and aesthetics, it more than makes up for in functionality for those who really want to sleep on their growing bellies. Essentially an inflatable plastic pillow, the Cozy Bump takes up half the bed and has a cutout at the stomach for comfortable positioning. Each side provides a different level of bump support, so as you progress into your third trimester, you can flip the pillow for a deeper cutout. That’s not the only way to customize your sleep experience: You can also inflate the already attached headrest or keep it deflated and use your own pillow. Inflating the Cozy Bump is simple, provided you have a standard air-bed pump (not included); the only challenge is getting situated on it so that your shoulders and the rest of your body can get enough support.
Q: Do you see yourself using your pregnancy pillow long after the baby is born?
A: The smaller pillows on this list, like the two Boppy pillows, have already seen a lot of non-pregnancy use in that the rest of my family often steals them. The Boppy Cuddle is also designed to be a nursing pillow, so I can see myself using it with my baby long after my pregnancy is over. In general, most of the pillows are probably too big for post-pregnancy use unless you plan to sleep alone—though they have excellent online resale value and make great secondhand gifts.
Q: What’s the hardest part about sleeping with a pregnancy pillow?
A: With most of the pillows—even the smaller ones, like the Boppy Cuddle—it’s hard to adjust positions in the night without disrupting your partner’s sleep or pushing the pillow off the bed entirely. That’s the benefit of the symmetrical pillows, like the U-shaped Milliard and the Boppy Side-Sleeper—they allow you to roll over and resettle without waking. For those of us who tend to toss and turn in the night, C-shaped pillows make it impossible to flip to the other side without a lot of disgruntled re-situating.
Q: Any tips for finding the best position when using a pregnancy pillow?
A: It’s generally best to sleep on your side after week 20 of pregnancy, with cushions under your bump to support the extra weight and between your knees to relieve back strain. At that gestational mid-point, sleeping on your back will become increasingly uncomfortable because the weight of your uterus can push on the blood vessel that brings blood to your baby, which generally makes you feel dizzy and short of breath. If you’re a dedicated back sleeper struggling with this restriction, you can put a pregnancy pillow behind you and position yourself at a low, tilted angle to keep the blood moving. I tend to sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees even when not pregnant, so I find the best position to be one that tucks the pillow through my legs and wraps it under my bump while I sleep on my usual pillow.