Sleeping On Your Stomach During Pregnancy: Is It Safe?

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Sleeping positions are a personal preference, and many of us are habituated to sleeping on our stomachs. However, when your tummy starts growing to accommodate your developing baby, it may not feel comfortable to sleep on your stomach during pregnancy. You may not notice any difference in the first trimester or even up to 18 weeks, but your baby bump at later stages may make it a painful experience. Read this post to know when to stop sleeping on your tummy when pregnant, the ideal position of sleeping, and some useful tips to help you sleep better.

Can You Sleep On Your Stomach When Pregnant?

Sleeping on your stomach may not be a good option during pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses, the uterus becomes heavier, making it uncomfortable for you to sleep in that position.

  • If you are a stomach-sleeper, you may continue to sleep so in the first trimester (1).
  • During the second trimester, you may start experiencing heartburn, which occurs when the stomach contents reflux or flow back to the esophagus. Sleeping on the stomach may also slow down the digestion process, keeping the food in the stomach for a longer time, which could aggravate heartburn and constipation (2) (3).
  • During the third trimester, your pregnancy bump makes it uncomfortable to sleep on the stomach (4). Daniel Boyer, MD, who focuses on medical research at Farr Institute, West Des Moines, Iowa, says, “You should not lay on your stomach while pregnant in the third trimester. Your baby is very active at this stage of pregnancy, so you may feel uncomfortable lying on your stomach.”

When Should You Stop Sleeping On Stomach During Pregnancy?

You should stop sleeping on the stomach whenever you feel uncomfortable. You may be able to sleep until the 16th to 18th week of pregnancy. Sleeping on your stomach after this period becomes uncomfortable (4).

Sleeping on the back may also be uncomfortable as the weight of the growing fetus presses on the inferior vena cava (the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the lower body to the heart). This may slow down the return of blood to the heart and limit blood flow to the fetus (1). Sleeping on your back arises backaches, difficult breathing, make digestion less efficient, interferes with circulation, and possibly causes hypotension, reduce blood to the uterus giving to the baby less oxygen and nutrients.

Pregnancy Pillow While Sleeping On The Stomach

A pregnant woman sleeps on a pregnancy pillow

Image: iStock

If you are a stomach-sleeper and prefer to continue sleeping in the same position in the first trimester, you may place a pregnancy pillow (a donut-shaped or wedge-shaped pillow) under your tummy for support (4). Dr. Boyer suggests, “In the third trimester, it is best to sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs and another one between your stomach and the bed. This will help you get a more comfortable position to rest in.”

Disadvantages Of Sleeping On The Stomach

The extra weight in the middle of the body may increase the pull on the spine, thus causing back pain. It may add extra pressure on the breasts that are usually sore and tender during this time.

If you fall asleep while pregnant on your stomach, there is a risk of developing blood vessels or ligaments that could lead to a blood clot. If a blood clot develops, it could lead to early pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, placenta accreta, and placenta previa,” Dr. Boyer observes.

Ideal Sleeping Position During Pregnancy

You may consider sleeping on your side, preferably on your left side during pregnancy. The best way to sleep through the night, this position improves the blood flow and nutrients from you to the growing fetus and does not put pressure on your liver. It may also improve the functioning of the kidney by helping eliminate waste and fluid from the your body, which in turn reduces swelling in the ankles, feet, and hands. Placing a pillow between your knees could make it more comfortable for you to sleep on the side (1).

Tips To Sleep Better During Pregnancy

You may follow these tips to get better sleep.

  • 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 any sleep disturbances.
  • 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 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.
  • Take a warm shower a few minutes before bedtime. It calms the tensed nerves and improves sleep.
  • Ask your partner to give you a massage.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can lying on your stomach cause miscarriage?

Lying on your stomach is not known to cause miscarriage. There are no studies that connect the two.

2. Can you hurt the baby by lying on the stomach?

Lying on the stomach is not likely to hurt the baby since the uterine walls could provide enough protection for the baby. It is just that you may feel uncomfortable sleeping in this position (5).

It is not recommended to sleep on your stomach during pregnancy, especially in the later trimesters. When a pregnant woman sleeps on her stomach, the weight of the uterus may compress the larger veins that carry blood from the lower part of the body back to the heart. This lack of blood flow may result in increased swelling in the legs. It may also affect your digestive function and cause backaches. Though sleeping on the stomach is not known to cause miscarriages or problems for the baby, it is best for your health to sleep on your side during pregnancy.

Infographic: Tips To Prevent Sleeping On Stomach When Pregnant

Although sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy may not usually be harmful, it may be uncomfortable as your baby grows. Also, your doctor may advise you to opt for safer sleep positions, preferably side-lying positions. Here is an infographic to help you avoid sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy.

sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy is it safe [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

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. Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=p01238
  2. Pregnancy and Heartburn; University of Rochester Medical Center
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=10
  3. Sleeping During Pregnancy; Brenner Children’s – Wake Forest Baptist Health
    https://www.brennerchildrens.org/KidsHealth/Parents/Pregnancy-and-Newborn-Center/Your-Pregnancy/Sleeping-During-Pregnancy.htm
  4. Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
    https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/should-pregnant-women-avoid-sleeping-on-their-backs
  5. The Best Position for Sleep During Pregnancy; Sleep.org
    https://www.sleep.org/articles/best-pregnancy-sleep-position/
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Rebecca Malachi

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). She has been into health and...
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Dr. Irene (Eirini) Orfanoudaki

(PhD, MD)
Dr. Irene (Eirini) Orfanoudaki is a gynecologist-obstetrician, having a private practice in Heraklion, Crete, and collaborating with private health clinic 'MITERA' - Euromeda in Heraklion. With more than two decades of experience as a gynecologist-obstetrician, she specializes in ultrasound, colposcopy, minimal and advance gynecologic surgery, aesthetic gynecology, fertility consulting, menopause consulting, operative obstetrics, high-risk pregnancy, normal deliveries, antenatal, intra-parum, postnatal...
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