Is It Safe To Sleep On Your Back When Pregnant?

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Finding the right position to sleep comfortably during pregnancy is a struggle for most pregnant women. Although sleeping on your back during pregnancy may be tempting, it is generally not a widely accepted medical recommendation. As relaxing and comfortable it may be, this position is typically safe only during the first trimester. Towards the later trimesters, it may cause complications for the baby and yourself (1) (2).

Read to know more about sleeping on the back while pregnant, including its side effects and tips to sleep comfortably.

In This Article

Why Is Sleeping On The Back Not Recommended During Pregnancy?

Sleeping on the back during pregnancy may cause dizziness

Image: IStock

According to Orlando-based obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Christine Greves, “Pregnancy dramatically changes your body, and avoiding sleeping on your back is highly recommended to ensure proper blood flow and oxygenation to the uterus.”

Sleeping on your back, especially in later stages, is not recommended during pregnancy for the following reasons:

  • The weight of the growing uterus and fetus presses on the inferior vena cava (the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower body to the heart). It may, therefore, slow down the return of blood to the heart and limit blood flow to the fetus (2) (3).
  • The pressure created on the major blood vessels may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, back pain, digestion problems, difficulty in breathing, hemorrhoidsiA condition in which the rectal and anal region veins get swollen. , and low blood pressure (2).
  • According to a study published in JAMA Network Open, a supine sleep positioniSleeping on the back with the face facing upwards. in late pregnancy (third trimester) could lead to low birth weight of the infant. In an analysis of 1,760 pregnant women, 57 women who slept on their backs had babies with reduced birth weight (4).

protip_icon Did you know?
Epidemiologicali A population study of the distribution, causes, and events of health-related conditions. data demonstrate that about one in three women in early pregnancy and one in five women in late pregnancy sleep on their backs. Overall, almost 27% of expectant women spend at least some time sleeping on their backs during the night (12).

Does Sleeping On Your Back Increase The Risk Of Stillbirth?

The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports that there is no risk of stillbirth (1).

Several older studies have found that sleeping on the back in the third trimester was associated with an increased risk of stillbirth (5). In fact, a study by researchers in New Zealand has also hypothesized that a supine sleeping position was associated with increased late stillbirthiThe death or loss of a baby before or during birth. risk (6).

However, these studies were not randomized and included a small sample population. Therefore, they cannot be taken as direct evidence.

What Happens If You Wake Up On Your Back?

Don't worry about waking up on the back since it may happen unknowingly during sleep

Image: Shutterstock

You need not worry much about waking up on the back since it could happen unknowingly during sleep. In some cases, your body might help you know, as you would start feeling breathless or nauseated even before your baby is affected. It is not likely to cause harm to your baby (7).

How Long Can You Sleep On Your Back While Pregnant?

You may sleep on your back as long as you feel comfortable. As your uterus expands, sleeping on the back may cause discomfort, and you may naturally shift to a more comfortable sleeping position (5).

protip_icon Quick tip
Expecting women should avoid sleeping on their backs from the 28th week of gestationiThe period from the time of conception to delivery, typically lasting around nine months. until birth. Putting one pillow under the shoulder and one under the buttock can help sleep in a tilted position which ensures there’s no pressure on the inferior vena cava (13).

What Is The Correct Maternal Sleeping Position?

Correct way of sleeping on back during pregnancy

Image: IStock

Sleeping on your left side is considered a good position as it enhances the blood flow to the baby, your uterus, and the kidneys. Using pillows, one between your knees and the other beneath the abdomen, could make you sleep comfortably. It could create a tilt while sleeping on the side and provide the needed support (8).

Eve, a mother, shares how she used body pillows to sleep on her side during pregnancy. She writes, “The only complaint I have is sleep! For some reason, I have so much trouble sleeping on my side, which makes it very hard to sleep at night. I bought one of those huge body pillows, which helped quite a bit, but I still find myself waking up many times throughout the night. But I’m happy to say last night’s sleep was infinitely better than the prior few nights, so hopefully tonight will be too (i)!”

How To Sleep Comfortably During Pregnancy?

Here are a few tips to get a comfortable and better sleep when pregnant (9).

  • Drink more water (or fluids) during the day, and less before sleep time to avoid frequent urination.
  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation could relieve your stress and mitigate snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, or any other sleep disturbances (10).

    Relaxation techniques could relieve stress and promote good sleep

    Image: IStock

  • Use full-body pregnancy pillows and supportive cushions for extra support. They could make you feel comfortable and improve sleep.
  • Do not eat spicy or fried foods as it could lead to heartburn and disrupt your good night’s sleep.
  • To prevent nausea, you may have some snacks such as crackers or pretzels. This could also curb your midnight hunger.
  • Listen to some relaxing and soothing music before bedtime. It could de-stress you and help sleep better.
protip_icon Did you know?
Research shows that music helps improve sleep quality in pregnant women (14). Another research shows that prenatal music and singing interventions can help improve the mood and well-being of pregnant women and support mother-infant bonding (15).
  • Take a warm shower a few minutes before bedtime. It calms the tensed nerves and improves sleep.

     A warm shower before bedtime calms you and improves sleep

    Image: IStock

  • Ask your partner to give you a massage.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How to avoid sleeping on my back during pregnancy?

You may place pillows behind your back to stop you from sleeping on your back. Although they may not completely prevent you from sleeping on your back, they make you feel comfortable (10).

2. Can sleeping on my back during pregnancy cause brain damage in the baby?

Sleeping on your back has not been found responsible for any brain damage, developmental disorders, or other conditions such as autism in your baby (11).

3. Can sleeping on my back during pregnancy lead to pelvic pain?

Sleeping on your back during pregnancy may cause pelvic pain as it may increase pressure on your pelvis and spine, leading to discomfort and pain.

4. Can sleeping on my back cause acid reflux during pregnancy?

Sleeping on your back during pregnancy may cause acid reflux. Stomach acid can move freely to the esophagus and lead to reflux symptoms. To prevent this, prop your head and shoulders up when you sleep to prevent stomach acid from coming up (16).

Sleeping on your back while pregnant is safe in the first trimester. However, as your pregnancy progresses, sleeping on your back is not advisable since it can reduce the oxygenated blood supply to the fetus. It can also cause many issues for the mother, such as back pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, and low blood pressure. Thus, mothers are advised to sleep on their left side since it enhances blood circulation to the uterus and the baby. Hence, practice sleeping on your side from the start of the pregnancy to get used to this sleeping position.

Infographic: Sleeping Safe And Well During Pregnancy

Knowing ways to cope with sleep issues and following proper sleep positions could help you get the much-needed rest when pregnant. Here is an infographic to help you choose the correct sleep position and learn some helpful tips to sleep well during pregnancy.

more tips for a better sleep when pregnant (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Sleeping on the back during pregnancy after the first trimester is not recommended for safety concerns.
  • This position may put pressure on the blood vessels and cause reduced blood supply to the fetus, dizziness, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure.
  • It is recommended to sleep on the left side with the support of pillows to improve blood supply to the fetus.
  • To achieve peaceful sleep during pregnancy, staying hydrated, taking warm showers, practicing yoga, and meditation can be helpful.
Sleeping On Back During Pregnancy_illustration

Image: Stable Diffusion/MomJunction Design Team

Is your habitual back sleeping starting to get uncomfortable for you? Check out this video for tips on how to sleep comfortably during pregnancy.

Personal Experience: Source


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. The advice we give to pregnant women; The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (2019)
2. Pregnancy Sleep Positions; Sleep
3. Jane Warland; Back to basics: avoiding the supine position in pregnancy; The Journal of Physiology (2017).
4. Ngaire H. Anderson, et al.; Association of Supine Going-to-Sleep Position in Late Pregnancy With Reduced Birth Weight A Secondary Analysis of an Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis; JAMA Network Open (2019).
5. Peter R. Stone, et al.; Effect of maternal position on fetal behavioural state and heart rate variability in healthy late gestation pregnancy; The Journal of Physiology (2017).
6. Tomasina Stacey, Ed A Mitchell, and Jane M Zuccollo; Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study; The BMJ (2011).
7. Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
8. Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center
9. Sleeping During Pregnancy; Brenner Children’s – Wake Forest Baptist Health
10. Vivek Kumar, Vibhor Malhotra and Satish Kumar; Application of Standardised Yoga Protocols as the Basis of Physiotherapy Recommendation in Treatment of Sleep Apneas: Moving Beyond Pranayamas; PubMed Central (2018).
11. Sleep position in pregnancy Q&A; Tommy’s
12. Exactly How Bad Is It to Sleep on Your Back When You’re Pregnant?; Cleveland Clinic
13. Nicole Robertson, Satomi Okano, and Sailesh Kumar; Sleep in the Supine Position During Pregnancy is Associated with Fetal Cerebral Redistribution; NCBI (2020)
14. Sleeping positions; The Women’s Center
15. Yasemin Sanlı et al.; Effects of music on sleep quality and comfort levels of pregnant women; NCBI (2021)
16. Verena Wulff et al.; The effects of a music and singing intervention during pregnancy on maternal well-being and mother–infant bonding: a randomised, controlled study; NCBI (2021)

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Dr. Erica Montes is a Fellow of the American College of OB/GYN. She has 14 years of experience and specializes in minimally invasive surgical procedures having done her training in the daVinci Robotic Surgical System. The Texas-based doctor has keen interest in high-risk obstetrics, gynecologic surgery, and abnormal uterine bleeding.

Read full bio of Dr. Erica Montes
  • Dr. Christine Greves
    Dr. Christine GrevesMD Dr. Christine Greves is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. She has more than 20 years of experience and works in Orlando. Dr. Greves is an advocate of minimally invasive surgery to reduce perioperative pain and accelerate recovery time.
    Dr. Christine Greves is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. She has more than 20 years of experience and works in Orlando. Dr. Greves is an advocate of minimally invasive surgery to reduce perioperative pain and accelerate recovery time.
Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

Read full bio of Rebecca Malachi
Swati Patwal
Swati PatwalM.Sc. (Food & Nutrition), MBA
Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist, a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and a toddler mom with more than a decade of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children.

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Reshmi Das has over four years of experience as a clinical coordinator, medical content writer and medical conference coordinator. Her continuous interest in medical journals and writing makes her write well-researched articles for MomJunction.

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