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. Sometimes the list begins to feel endless. The truth is, there are some things that are truly potentially harmful and others that aren't really that worrisome. There are also things that you can actually do something about, and others that you can't. The good news is that the position that you sleep in is something you can control.

Why Back Sleeping Can Be Problematic for Pregnant Women

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

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 thus, to your baby.

Why Side Sleeping Is Best for Pregnant Women

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? 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.

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Article Sources
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  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

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