The stomach muscles pull and, oh, the ankle swelling won't subside. "My husband, for about half the pregnancy, has slept on the couch because I'm just constantly tossing and turning," says Ashley Pine of Milford, due to give birth to a baby boy in the next few weeks. "I wake-up, my back hurts, my hip hurts." She decided to try the Lotus Leaf, an eco-friendly pillow system, invented by her licensed prenatal massage therapist, Julie Robbins. This doula, who teaches a Birth Partner Massage class at Yale-New Haven Hospital, is turning to Kickstarter, the online funding platform, to market her product and help women find the rest they need during this precious time.
"All of my clients would come to me and they would say 'Julie, I'm so uncomfortable. I hurt here, I hurt there, all because of the way I sleep at night'," says Robbins from her office in Woodbridge. "The design started with the idea of really aligning a pregnant body exactly how it should be so that there's no strain on any particular part." With 15 years experience, Robbins looked at the physiology of pregnancy. Her prototype adapts to different body sizes and stages of pregnancy. Nine ergonomic pillows fit together symmetrically, some in the same case, on top of a sloped base cushion, placed under a fitted sheet. "It has just enough rise to help with heartburn," says Robbins, pointing out a contoured head pillow and wedge to fit under the belly. "It's got two angles, a steeper angle, or you can turn it over if you want a lower angle." Robbins designed an "arm-channel" to promote good circulation and support that keeps legs parallel to the bed: "That helps relieve all those muscles in your hips that cause the problem of sciatica."
A mother-of-two, Robbins hopes a successful Kickstarter campaign will make the Lotus Leaf available for sale to expectant moms, with a planned retail price of $199. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 78 percent of women report the worst sleep of their lives occurred during pregnancy. Research by the University of California-San Francisco School of Nursing shows that women who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 4.5 times more likely to have Cesarean deliveries. "I'd like to change those numbers," says Robbins.
Pine now believes in the Lotus Leaf. "My first reaction was, 'Where has this been for the last nine months?'" says this teacher, noting that the pillows help her stay on her left side, the recommended sleep position during pregnancy. "This system really contributes to the mother's overall well-being. It can only mean positive things for the baby."
To see how the Lotus Leaf works, check out http://www.mylotusleaf.com and watch Monday's Fox CT Morning News.