An Expectant Mom’s Guide to Finding a Pregnancy Pillow

Pregnancy is a time when you need as much sleep as you can snag, but finding a comfortable sleeping position may be difficult for many soon-to-be new moms. The extra weight you’re carrying around can put stress on your body and joints, resulting in aches and pains when you try to lie down for the night, not to mention keeping you awake.

Luckily, a maternity or pregnancy pillow can come to the rescue. These oversized pillows help to alleviate aches and pains by supporting certain areas of your body while you sleep. Every woman’s body is different, and that's why maternity pillows come in a variety of shapes and styles that are catered toward the comfort each new mom-to-be requires. Here are some tips on how to choose the pregnancy pillow that’s best for you:  

Look online. This is the fastest way to see all the different types of pillows that are available, as well as read reviews from other expectant moms on which types and brands work best.

Ask for advice. Chances are you have a friend, relative, or acquaintance who is  pregnant or has been pregnant in the recent past. Use the information she can give you as a guide.

Pick your support.  Decide which areas of the body you need supported, as different pillows support the body in different ways. Here is a breakdown of the basic types of pregnancy pillows and what they do:

Memory foam. This kind adjusts to the contours of your body, and supports the belly, back, and knees.

Simple wedge. This type slides easily under a growing belly, and is ideal if you prefer to sleep on your side. This pillow is also great for traveling, because it’s small and compact.

Bean-shaped. These wrap around your mid-section. They have adjustable straps at each end specifically designed to support the back on one side and the stomach on the other.

Test them out. Many stores will allow expectant moms to touch and even try the pillows while in the store.Take advantage and lie in different positions to see which one is most comfortable for your body.

If you’re unable to track down a maternity pillow, know that you can use multiple regular bed pillows instead. Place a pillow to support each affected area, or stick one under each side of your back. A better night’s sleep will make you a happier new mom-to-be, and help power you through your pregnancy.

Facts about Pregnancy Cravings

For many women around the world, having a baby often comes with an array of new eating habits and cravings, from feasting on a tray of brownies to dipping pickles in curry. But what are pregnancy cravings exactly? Here’s a look at some common cravings and ways to satisfy them without derailing your pregnancy diet or harming your baby.

Understanding pregnancy cravings

You want an entire bag of chips, or an ice cream sundae, and you want it now. Strong urges like these are common among new moms during pregnancy, and no one is completely certain why they occur. Some experts believe that pregnancy cravings happen as a result of your body asking for the nutrients it needs. So desires for ice cream sundaes or a tray of brownies could be a signal that your body needs more calcium or fat

Top cravings from around the world

Most food cravings fall into the sweet, spicy, salty, or sour category, and include foods like ice cream, pickles, soda, lemon, tomatoes, and chocolate.

Craving caveat

Keep in mind that while many pregnancy cravings can be very strong, oftentimes your body doesn’t need the specific food you’re craving, just something in that food. And filling up on unhealthy foods can lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy and nutritional deficiencies for both mom and baby.

How to satisfy your craving

So how do you satisfy a pregnancy craving without doing any damage to your overall health or the health of your new baby? Learn to understand your cravings and satisfy them by eating small amounts of what you desire without overdoing it, or by choosing something similar but  more healthful. That hankering for a vanilla milkshake could just be your body’s desire for calcium and can be sated by a cup of low-fat yogurt, while some crunchy carrots may satisfy a potato chip craving (or maybe not). 

And if a healthy alternative doesn’t do the job? Take your mind off of your craving by going for a walk, spending time with another new mom to-be, or calling a friend to talk about your day.

Four Off-Limit Foods for New Moms-to-Be

Meals should be a pleasure during pregnancy, not a problem. But certain foods can be risky when you’re eating for two. For your baby’s safety, steer clear of the following foods when expecting, and always ask your doctor if you have any questions on what you should -- and shouldn’t -- eat .

Fish high in mercury. Eating fish is an important part of your pregnancy diet because much of it is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are super nutrients for your new baby’s brain development. But not every kind of fish is recommended. Some larger ones contain too much mercury, which can affect your baby’s nervous system. Steer clear of shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish. And limit safer varieties of fish to 12 ounces a week.

Some raw and undercooked foods. The risk with anything raw is that you may contract a case of food poisoning. While it’s rare for this illness to affect your new baby, it’s not pleasant to deal with, whether you’re pregnant or not. To be on the safe side, cook eggs, seafood, shellfish, meat, and chicken fully. Skip raw fish and shellfish, smoked fish, refrigerated pate, and raw sprouts like radish, mung bean, and alfalfa.

Unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juice. Unpasteurized products are off the menu when you’re expecting. Read labels carefully to be sure all milk and juice you drink has been pasteurized and the cheese you consume (especially soft varieties like Brie,  Camembert, and goat cheese,) is made with pasteurized, not raw, milk.

Deli meats. Listeriosis, a rather serious foodborne illness, is the concern for this category. It’s a good idea to avoid deli meats and hot dogs anyway as they aren’t a healthy choice (many are high in sodium). If you do indulge in deli items during pregnancy, be sure to heat all meats and franks until they are steaming.

Remember to practice good hygiene in the kitchen -- it’s smart whether you’re having a baby or not. Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating a meal, and wash produce well under running water, using a brush to scrub the outer layer of tough-skinned fruits and veggies. Knowing your diet is safe for your new baby will put any expectant mom at ease. Happy eating!

Pregnancy Etiquette for Expectant Moms

As you may have discovered, even the most well intentioned family members and friends, coworkers and strangers will ask unwanted questions while you’re pregnant. So how does a mom-to-be handle the queries gracefully while keeping her cool? The key is to be ready for whatever people will throw at you. Here’s how to cope with some awkward situations you'll encounter while pregnant.

The question: “What are you going to name your new baby?”

Let’s face it: Coming up with a baby name that you and your partner can agree on is hard enough without anyone else chiming in, and it’s normal to worry that someone will steal your baby name. While some expecting parents have no problem revealing potential monikers, it’s okay if you prefer to not to share. Just politely explain that for now you’re keeping names a secret, and if you decide to announce the name before the baby comes they’ll be the first to know.

The remark: “Did you know I was in labor for 38 hours?”

It’s normal for new moms to want to share their experiences and offer pregnancy tips, but no one wants to hear horror stories about the delivery room. If a conversation gets too graphic, feel free to interrupt and politely say that you appreciate the advice, but everyone’s pregnancy and delivery is different. Explain to your chatty friend that the next time you have a question, you’ll be sure to give her a call.

The question: “Are you pregnant?”

If a nosy co-worker or cousin is prying before you’ve decided to make the announcement, remember that you’re allowed to keep it a secret for as long as you’d like. Not ready to ‘fess up? Try a quick, “Not yet!” fib as a response. When you are ready to tell family and friends that you'll be a new mom, it’s usually best to start with your inner circle before posting on Facebook. At your workplace, your wisest course is to tell your boss in private before spreading the word.

The question: “Was it planned?”

Whether someone asks whether you went the IVF route or if the pregnancy was a total surprise, don’t feel obligated to answer. The easiest way to wiggle out of it is to say, “We’re so happy we’re having a baby; how have you been?” By changing the topic, you indicate that you’re not willing to talk about the subject, and most people should get the hint.

The request: “Can I touch your belly?”

It seems that the instant you have a bump, everyone wants to feel it. But having your tummy rubbed -- especially by total strangers -- can be awkward and weird, to say the least. Ward off unwanted hands by keeping something in front of your belly (a purse will do the trick). When it comes to people you know trying to get in a rub, you’ll have to be a little more diplomatic; jokingly tell them that the baby is sleeping and doesn’t want to be woken up.

Just remember, it’s your baby -- and your body -- so don’t let other people make you feel uncomfortable. There’s always a polite way to refute questions you don’t want to answer.

Lessen Your Labor Pain

Unfortunately, no one, not even someone who's given birth before, can tell you exactly what to expect on the big day. That's because every expectant mom’s labor and delivery experience is different. Fortunately, there are basic things you can do beforehand to strengthen both your body and your resolve, and during labor to help keep you as comfortable as possible while waiting for your new baby’s big entrance. Try these nine strategies.

For Pregnancy

New mom tip #1: Learn about labor. Find out everything you can about labor from books, magazines, Web sites, videos, classes, and hospital tours. Familiarizing yourself with the procedures and customs at your hospital or birth center will mean fewer surprises.

New mom tip #2: Take childbirth classes. In these classes, you will learn different ways to deal with pain during labor such as walking, changing positions, taking showers or warm baths, and using breathing exercises, hypnosis, relaxation, and massage.

New mom tip #3: Express your fears. Are you worried about labor, needles, or medication? Speak with a knowledgeable childbirth educator or your doctor. Voicing your worries can bring relief as well as practical solutions to your concerns.

New mom tip #4: Keep up with your normal exercise routine. The more you move during pregnancy, the better prepared your body will be for labor, delivery, and recovery. Exercise helps reduce backaches, constipation, swelling, and other unpleasant side effects.

For Labor

New mom tip #5: Create a sense of calm. Make your environment in the hospital or birth center as soothing and familiar as possible. Play some soft music and put some framed pictures of your partner next to your bed. You may also want to bring a pillow from home (if the facility allows it).

New mom tip #6: Get a massage. Having someone rub your back will warm your skin and stimulate the body to release its own natural painkiller.

New mom tip #7: Use a warm compress. Applying warmth is a tried-and-tested way of relaxing aching, tense muscles. Have someone in the hospital room keep a compress handy to warm your back, tummy, or groin.

New mom tip #8: Practice deep breathing. Focusing on your breathing is a very helpful way to get through each contraction. Taking a deep breath at the beginning of each contraction and then slowly releasing it will conserve your energy and help ease the pain.

New mom tip #9: Change position. Try not to lie on your back once you’re in active labor unless you’re exhausted. Instead, walk around or stay in an upright position. As labor progresses, lying on your side can provide rest and may help slow a delivery that is happening too quickly.

These tips will certainly prepare you for your baby’s big debut, but if you feel you need more help managing the pain, speak up or have your partner convey your needs. And remember, this pain will be a distant memory once you have your beautiful new baby in your arms.