As a mother, you want the best for your baby, even when it’s still in your womb! This means you want to stay away from over-the-counter medications and other non-prescription drugs that can possibly affect the growing fetus. So how do you deal with discomfort such as nausea, anxiety, and sleeplessness during this phase?
The answer is natural and alternative therapies! These work in a natural way and offer long-term benefits without the annoying side effects of prescription drugs. Massages, aromatherapy, herbal remedies, and meditation are such therapies that work well in relaxing the muscles, rejuvenating the body, and easing the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy.
Weighted blankets are increasingly being used as a natural relaxation tool. These blankets are designed to offer the benefit of Deep Pressure Touch therapy (DPT) and are especially popular amongst pregnant women who have difficulty sleeping. The added weight in these blankets works at a therapeutic level to ease the many side effects and discomforts of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a time when you need extra care and support in every way. If using a natural product can offer that added comfort, it might be worthwhile to try it. If you are planning on getting a weighted blanket or would like to know more about the possible uses of these blankets during pregnancy, read on!
The science behind weighted blankets
Before we move on to discuss the benefits of a weighted blanket, it is important to understand how they work.
As mentioned above, these blankets work on the principle of deep pressure touch therapy or DPT. It is a form of tactile or proprioceptive input offered through firm pressure exerted equally across the body. This can be compared to the effect a warm hug or a swaddle has on our bodies.
In simpler terms, the added weight in these products gently strokes the sensory points across the body activating the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This encourages the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin, or the “happy hormones”, responsible for improving mood, promoting feelings of calm, and inducing better sleep.
Weighted blankets are a portable option to experience the effects of DPT as and when needed. Made with quilted fabrics, these contain fillers such as poly pellets or glass beads, that are sewn evenly throughout the blanket. You can also find blankets using grains and sand as fillers, however, it is best to go with non-toxic, natural fillers that are easy to manage and clean.
Typically weighing 10% plus a pound or two of your body weight, these are heavier than your usual comforters or blankets. The outer fabric can be anything from cotton to flannel, depending on your personal choice.
Weighted blankets have been in use for a long time especially in hospitals and occupational care settings. But now they are gaining mainstream popularity as a support tool for people suffering from anxiety, insomnia, or sensory processing issues—many of which can also arise during pregnancy.
Dealing with heightened anxiety during pregnancy
Pregnancy brings with it mixed emotions—excitement, fear, anxiety, insecurity, and so on. The hormonal surge during this phase can add on to the intensity of these emotions leading to restlessness and depression. This is where weighted blankets can help.
The pressure exerted through a weighted blanket puts your body at ease and encourages feelings of comfort and security. It cues your mind to get into the rest mode. A lot of users claim it relieves stress and keeps them calm and relaxed through the day. And rightly so!
Deep pressure therapy is known to stimulate the production of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) which in turn controls the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone). Regular use of a weighted blanket can, therefore, keep your mood swings and anxiety levels under check.
This is way better than popping the anti-anxiety pills which contain artificial chemicals and can negatively affect your baby. Weighted blankets or lap pads can be used as often as you want without worrying about any negative side effects.
Getting a good night’s sleep
Having a good night’s sleep is an integral part of keeping us healthy and active, especially during pregnancy. There are various ways to achieve this—taking a warm shower right before turning in for the night, listening to soft music, doing some light exercises, staying away from distractions or stressful conversations late in the evening, and so on.
All of this can help in getting your mind into a restful state, improving the quality of your sleep. Switching to a weighted blanket can complement these efforts or even work as a stand-alone sleeping aid.
A lot of relaxation videos and meditations focus on visualizing a protective layer all around you and your body slowly sinking into it. Sleeping with a quilted product like the weighted blanket can feel much the same.
The weight of these blankets relaxes your nervous system and stimulates the secretion of feel-good hormones—serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin, in turn, convert into melatonin, which is the sleep hormone responsible for those precious ZZZs. Weighted blankets are definitely a safer alternative to sleeping pills that affect the brain receptors and can create unwanted drowsiness and other nasty side effects. It is no wonder that most of these pills are contraindicated during pregnancy!
Dealing with the changing body weight
Pregnant women are often advised to use multiple cushions as a backrest or maternity pillows as support while sleeping. The growing baby puts extra pressure on the mother’s body parts, especially the back, belly, and thighs. Using stuffed pillows or layered comforters can support these body parts and relieve any aches or pains.
Maintaining a good posture while sleeping is critical to ensure proper blood circulation throughout the body. A weighted blanket can work as a sturdy support while you are asleep. The weight in these blankets can keep you grounded and comfortable through the night, which can otherwise be difficult during later stages of pregnancy.
Another common problem affecting pregnant women is swelling, especially on their feet. The steady pressure of a weighted blanket or even a lap pad can reduce inflammation and swelling, improving mobility during this phase.
The evenly distributed fillers in weighted blankets gently massage the body’s sensory points. This relaxes the muscles, relieves any aches and pains, and also calms the nervous system. Regular use can help you enjoy a more relaxed and comfortable pregnancy.
Restlessness and sensory issues during pregnancy
The growing belly and additional body weight during pregnancy can create restlessness, imbalance and a drifted sense of space. In such cases, weighted products can provide the much-needed tactile sensory input helping the user feel calmer and more aware of her surroundings.
The added weight in these products pushes the body downwards, creating a sense of “grounding”. Studies show that grounding may help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body, thereby alleviating restlessness and anxiety. Lower cortisol levels also help in improving digestion and regulating the blood sugar levels—a critical parameter for a healthy pregnancy.
Are there any risks involved?
Whether it is an alternative therapy or a support product, it is important to consult your health practitioner before you start using them. The same advice applies to weighted blankets, especially if you will be using them for the first time.
There are no definite risks associated with their use, but the added weight and warmth inherent in these blankets might not be suitable for everyone. The rapid hormone changes during pregnancy can cause night sweats and hot flashes in some women. Using a layered fabric can make this worse. In such cases, you can opt for a lighter blanket or use a weighted lap pad instead.
This also works well for women who might find managing these blankets a bit challenging. The weight, however, is rarely a concern as these blankets are customized to be just 10% of your body weight. In special cases, you can choose a lighter version—but that might also impact the efficacy of these blankets.
If you are buying a readymade version, look into the type of fillers being used. Some blankets use grains which can cause allergies (though not common, as the fillers are concealed under layers of fabric) and are prone to infestation and mold. As mentioned above, glass beads and poly pellets are the preferred and safer option.
These blankets are not recommended for babies and young children as they pose a risk of suffocation and overheating. Therefore, pregnant mothers co-sleeping with a toddler should avoid using them.
A trusted support tool
The beautiful feeling of growing a life ‘within’ can be overwhelming and it brings with it myriad experiences. From that incredible excitement and delicate glow on your skin to the not-so-exciting symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, and sleeplessness (in some cases), the journey towards becoming a mother is rife with many ups and downs.
Weighted blankets can make this phase easier and more comfortable for you. Designed to mimic the benefits of deep pressure touch therapy, these blankets can alleviate pain, lower your stress levels, and help you sleep better and for longer hours. Under the guidance of your health practitioner, weighted blankets can offer multiple benefits at every stage of your pregnancy and can be a great companion through this journey.