Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy: What’s Safe And What’s Not

check_icon Research-backed

Image: Shutterstock

IN THIS ARTICLE

Pregnancy challenges sleep in many ways, leaving you often exhausted. However, exploring the various sleep positions when pregnant may help you find the most comfortable one, ensuring you get adequate rest. Many women may be able to sleep in their usual sleeping positions early in pregnancy. But you need to adopt new positions to sleep as the pregnancy progresses and your belly bump becomes more pronounced.

In this post, we acquaint you with the most suitable pregnancy sleeping positions and a few tips to get sound sleep.

What Are The Most Suitable Positions To Sleep During Pregnancy?

There are three common sleeping positions, sleeping on the side, back, and stomach. Read on to know how suitable they are during each trimester of pregnancy (1).

1. First trimester

The first trimester offers you the convenience of sleeping in all three positions since the uterus is not large enough to cause discomfort when sleeping in any position. However, you may use the first trimester as a phase to condition yourself to sleep on the side, preferably the left side, since you will have to switch to a side-sleeping position in later trimesters. Practicing from early on in pregnancy can make you habituated to sleep comfortably later (2).

2. Second trimester

Below are some notable points about various sleeping positions and the second trimester (3).

  • Sleeping on the stomach: You may avoid this sleeping position from the second trimester. Nevertheless, if you wish to sleep on your stomach, you may do so for up to 16 weeks and stop after it. Sleeping on the stomach may be uncomfortable as the belly grows since this sleeping position can compress the uterus and blood vessels.
  • Sleeping on the back: You must stop sleeping on the back from mid pregnancy since the uterus is large enough to potentially block the inferior vena cava, a vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower body to the heart when lying on your back. Compression of these blood vessels could interfere with the blood supply to the placenta and the baby. It could eventually cause you to feel dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.
  • Sleeping on the side: It is the best position to sleep during pregnancy, and if you are already used to it, then you should continue with it. If you are not yet sleeping on your sides, you must begin to do so by the 20th week when your uterus expands enough to compress major blood vessels if you sleep in other positions.

3. Third trimester

You must sleep only on your sides, and preferably the left side, from the third trimester (4). Sleeping on the left side can ensure the placenta and other organs in the torso, such as the kidneys, receive adequate blood supply. Research indicates that sleeping on the right side has no harmful implications (5). Nevertheless, you may give preference to sleeping on the left side since it has been widely noted to cause no complications (6).

What If You Accidentally Sleep On Your Back?

Do not worry if you find yourself waking up on your back in the morning even if you went to sleep while on your sides (7). Lying on the back occasionally and for a few moments does not cause adverse effects. If you wake up in the middle of the night and notice that you are on your back, you may change your position.

You may wake up with breathlessness, dizziness, and nausea if you accidentally rolled over on your back and stayed there for long enough to compress the blood vessels. Therefore, if you do not wake up and continue to sleep on your back, your body will warn you with signs of blood vessel compression before it causes any adverse effects to you or your baby.

Despite the potential adverse effects of sleeping on the back, research indicates that it does not increase the risk of complications, such as stillbirth, high maternal blood pressure, and reduced size of the baby at birth (8). However, more research is needed to understand the implications of sleeping on the back in different trimesters of pregnancy (9). Therefore, until then, give preference to sleeping on your sides, yet do not panic if you find yourself on your back once in a while.

How To Sleep Comfortably During Pregnancy?

Below are a few tips to help you sleep in a comfortable position during pregnancy.

  1. Use pillows: Place pillows between your legs and one near your belly to support it. Place a large pillow or multiple pillows along your back to provide support and prevent you from rolling on your back entirely. Experiment with numerous pillows of various sizes to find what works the best. You may also consider the large wedge-shaped pillows specially made to support side sleeping during pregnancy.
  1. Take your partner’s help: You may ask your partner to check on you at a designated time at night in case you tend to roll to your back. If they find you on your back, they may nudge you back to side the position.
  1. Try reclined position: You place a large pillow and sleep in a reclined side sleeping position or semi-upright position. This position may seem more comfortable to some women and also make it less likely to roll over to your back.
  1. Have light meals: Pregnancy may cause gastrointestinal discomforts, such as heartburn, especially in the third trimester. This may cause you to toss and turn often at night. You may alleviate it by consuming light meals before bedtime. Eat slowly with small bites. Take a short, slow walk at home after a meal and then go to bed.
  1. Try relaxation techniques: Try ways to relax and sleep well. You may explore ways that work the best to relax you. For instance, meditation and gentle exercises, such as walking, may help you relax and sleep better during pregnancy.

Key Pointers

  • Many pregnant women struggle to find a comfortable sleeping position, especially as the pregnancy progresses.
  • Sleeping on the back and stomach may be okay in the first trimester. These sleeping positions may lead to health problems in later trimesters.
  • You must start sleeping on your sides from the second trimester since it is the safest sleeping position in pregnancy.
  • Using multiple pillows can help make the side-sleeping position comfortable during pregnancy.

A change in sleep position may often come across as uncomfortable initially, but you will grow used to it. Adopting the side sleeping position from the first trimester is the best way to make yourself comfortable with it by the time you reach the subsequent trimester. Pillows and sleeping in a reclined position can help you stay comfortable while sleeping on your sides in pregnancy.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Best Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy
    https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/sleeping-positions-while-pregnant/
  2. Sleeping While Pregnant: First Trimester.
    https://www.sleepfoundation.org/pregnancy/sleeping-during-1st-trimester
  3. Michael Cackovic; (2018); Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs?
    https://health.osu.edu/health/womens-health/should-pregnant-women-avoid-sleeping-on-their-backs
  4. Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=p01238
  5. Robin S. Cronin, et al.; (2019); An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis of Maternal Going-to-Sleep Position, Interactions with Fetal Vulnerability, and the Risk of Late Stillbirth.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6543252/
  6. Exactly How Bad Is It to Sleep on Your Back When You’re Pregnant?
    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/exactly-how-bad-is-it-to-sleep-on-your-back-when-youre-pregnant/
  7. I’m Pregnant But Sleeping On My Side Hurts.
    https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_gf5ga51h
  8. Science Update: Sleeping position during early and mid pregnancy does not affect risk of complications, NIH-funded study suggests.
    https://www.nichd.nih.gov/newsroom/news/092019-pregnancy-sleep-position
  9. No Sleeping On Your Back Does Not Necessarily Increase Stillbirth.
    https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_29x80d44
The following two tabs change content below.

Dr. Ben Abbes Taarji Hicham

Dr. Ben Abbes Taarji Hicham is a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist with over 20 years of experience. Having worked in various Moroccan hospitals, he currently runs a private practice. Dr. Hicham specializes in rejuvenation and cosmetic gynecology, medically assisted reproduction, breast and gynecological cancers, HPV diseases, hysteroscopy and laparoscopy, and hormonal disorders.

Sindusha MS

Sindusha is a clinical nutritionist with over two years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She did her Masters in Food Science and Nutrition and has qualified UGC-NET. She interned as a quality control analyst and as a dietitian during her graduation. She was a part of several community nutrition projects and a phytochemical-based nutrition study during the same... more

LATEST ARTICLES