Sleeping positions are a personal preference, and many of us are habituated to sleeping in a prone position. 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 sleep position, 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 in the first trimester (1).
However, some sleeping on their stomach might make some mothers uncomfortable even during the first trimester. Michelle Carvalho, a mother of two who is eight weeks pregnant, describes her struggles when trying to sleep on her stomach at this stage. She says, “I am a stomach sleeper. I love to lay flat on my stomach with one leg up. Having a large beach-ball-shaped belly prevents me from doing that. Even at the beginning of this pregnancy, it kind of hurts to sleep on my stomach (i).”
- 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 while pregnant 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). A supine slumber position may, thus, slow down the return of blood to the heart and limit blood flow to the fetus (1).
Sleeping on your back can cause backaches, difficulty breathing, makes digestion less efficient, interferes with circulation, and possibly causes hypotension. It may also reduce blood flow to the uterus, leading to less oxygen and nutrients for the baby and affecting fetal development or causing fetal distress.
According to Cedars Sinai, back pain during pregnancy affects 50 to 80% of expectant women, and the intensity of the pain can vary from mild discomfort during specific activities to the development of chronic, acute pain. Remarkably, in approximately 10% of cases, the pain escalates to a severity that hinders a mother’s ability to do regular activities during pregnancy.
Pregnancy Pillow While Sleeping On The Stomach
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 also known as a maternity pillow or a body pillow) under your tummy for ventral 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 preeclampsiaiXA pregnancy condition characterized by the onset of high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and water retention , gestational diabetesiXA condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels due to hormonal and physical changes in pregnancy , placenta accretaiXA complication where the placenta grows deeply into the uterine wall or may extend to nearby organs , and placenta previaiXA condition where the placenta blocks the cervical opening completely or partially ,” 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 is an optimal pre-natal resting posture and 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 aid in your comfort 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 improve your sleep quality.
- Take a warm shower a few minutes before bedtime. It calms the tense 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 while pregnant 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 (7).
3. On which side of the stomach does a baby grow?
The baby changes its position throughout the gestation and settles into a fetal lie around 36 weeks. Size and shape of the uterus, amount of amniotic fluid, and position of the placenta in the womb are certain factors that may make a baby lie in the front, back, right, or left side of the stomach.
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 while pregnant 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.
- The second and third trimesters of pregnancy can make sleeping on the stomach uncomfortable.
- If sleeping on the stomach is a habit during pregnancy, a pregnancy pillow may be helpful.
- It is advised to sleep on the left side during pregnancy as it promotes better blood flow and kidney function.
- Yoga, breathing exercises, and staying hydrated can reduce stress and minimize sleep disruptions.
- In addition, taking a warm shower and listening to calming music could also improve sleep quality.
Are you used to sleeping on your stomach but do you wonder if it is safe during pregnancy? Find out in this video!
Personal Experience: Source
- Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center
- Pregnancy and Heartburn; University of Rochester Medical Center
- Sleeping During Pregnancy; Brenner Children’s – Wake Forest Baptist Health
- Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs; The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
- Science Update: Sleeping position during early and mid pregnancy does not affect risk of complications, NIH-funded study suggests.
- Sleeping While Pregnant: Second Trimester.
- The Best Position for Sleep During Pregnancy; Sleep.org
- Antenatal care module: 11. Assessing the Fetus.
- Fetal position.
- Sival et al.; Does reduction of amniotic fluid affect fetal movements?