Safe Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman asleep in bed
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There are a lot of do's and don'ts during pregnancy, including the recommendation to to sleep on your back or tummy after the first trimester. For back and front sleepers, these prohibitions can make getting a good night's rest more challenging.

However, it's not safe to sleep on your back in the second and third trimesters because the weight of the uterus and growing baby can put pressure on your circulatory system. Sleeping on your tummy also becomes off limits once your baby bump makes an appearance.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to get into comfortable side-lying sleeping positions, including those that will help to relieve back pain and other common pregnancy discomforts while you sleep. Side-lying sleep positions can take some effort to get used to but using body pillows can really help. Learn more about safe sleeping positions during pregnancy.

Why Back Sleeping Can Be Problematic During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you will often hear that sleeping on your back is a bad idea. The reason has to do with your anatomy and the growing weight of your uterus.

When you lay on your back after the first trimester of pregnancy, the weight of your pregnant uterus can decrease the blood flow in the vena cava, the vein that carries blood from the lower part of your body to the heart.

If this were to happen, there is a risk of decreasing the blood flow to your uterus and baby. This situation is potentially dangerous, which it's recommended to avoid sleeping on your back.

Why Side Sleeping Is Best During Pregnancy

The vena cava runs slightly to the right of your spine, so that's why you may hear that lying on your left side is the best option in pregnancy. Your liver is also on the right side, so sleeping on the left side also helps keep the fetus from compressing that organ.

During pregnancy, the key is not to sleep on your back; either side is usually fine.

If you happen to prefer the right side, it's not a big deal. While the left side is most recommended by doctors, many pregnant women still shift from side-to-side throughout the course of the night.

So what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're on your back or your stomach? Don't stress over it. Just roll over onto your side or prop your body with a pillow to turn you one direction or the other.

How Using a Pillow Can Help

Using pillows between your legs while you sleep can be more comfortable and help prevent back pain from strain placed on your back while you sleep. You can also use a pillow behind your back as a reminder to not roll over; if you feel it during the night, you'll likely stop rolling, even if you're fast asleep.

Any pillow will work, but there are also special pillows made for side-sleeping pregnant women. They may come in different shapes and sizes. Choose the one that works for you, even if that's simply a regular pillow. The extra support behind your back can help provide added support on your back and hips.

When to Consult a Professional

If you're really concerned about your sleeping position, talk to your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand what's going on and how to quantify the risk or non-risk to your baby. Don't lose more sleep over your sleeping position than you're already bound to lose during pregnancy.

What to Do When You Have Insomnia During Pregnancy

Many pregnant women already suffer from insomnia. Certainly, sleep positioning can play a part in how well you do or don't sleep.

There are many different ways to deal with insomnia that can be used no matter what your sleep position is at night, including eating a snack, reading a book, taking a warm bath, and making sure you go to bed when you feel sleepy.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. KidsHealth. Sleeping During Pregnancy. 2016. 

  2. University of Rochester Medical Center. Blood Circulation in the Fetus and Newborn.

  3. Kızılırmak A, Timur S, Kartal B. Insomnia in Pregnancy and Factors Related to Insomnia. ScientificWorldJournal. 2012;2012:197093. doi:10.1100/2012/197093

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.