Sleeping positions while pregnant

Pregnancy means a laundry list of uncomfortable changes that your body is dealing with. These can interrupt your normally peaceful rest.

In a 2016 study of nearly 2,400 women, about 76 percent reported poor sleep quality during pregnancy, more so than at any other time.

It’s common for pregnant women to sleep on their backs while pregnant, even if they fell asleep on their side. But you’ll most likely wake up within a few minutes of landing on your back because the position is so uncomfortable after the first trimester of pregnancy.

Although sleeping on your back while pregnant is generally safe, the position can feel uncomfortable and may cause avoidable health problems. Doctors recommend you sleep on your left side during all stages of pregnancy for the safest, most comfortable rest.

What if I wake up on my back?

Don’t worry if you wake up on your back. Accidentally sleeping on your back while pregnant shouldn’t cause serious harm to your baby.

But you should avoid sleeping in this position after the first trimester and for extended periods of time, for your own comfort and health. When you wake up on your back, just change your position and go back to sleep.

When you sleep on your back while pregnant, your abdomen rests on your intestines and major blood vessels. This becomes increasingly uncomfortable as your belly — and baby — grows. The pressure from this position can cause:

  • backaches
  • breathing issues
  • digestive problems
  • low blood pressure
  • hemorrhoids

Sleeping on your back while pregnant can also decrease circulation to your heart and to your baby.

Pillows 101

You can prop yourself up with pillows to make it more comfortable to sleep on your back while pregnant. If you’re dealing with heartburn during the night, take a pillow and place it behind your head and upper body.

You can also prop yourself up with pillows to ease the shortness of breath you’ll experience later in pregnancy.

You should keep a thin pillow underneath your tummy from 20 weeks onward. This will help support the weight of your growing belly. If you are dealing with back pain, you should also place a pillow under your abdomen.

Sleeping on your side

Research shows that it’s best to sleep on your side during all stages of pregnancy. Sleeping on your side helps you breathe better and decreases the pressure on your uterus.

While you can still sleep on your stomach and back during your first trimester, doctors recommend that you start to sleep on your side during this time.

Starting during the first few weeks of pregnancy will help you get used to the position before you need to switch to sleeping on your side exclusively.

Which side should I sleep on?

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the best side to sleep on is your left side.

Sleeping on your left side while pregnant will help pump more nutrients and blood to your placenta and your baby. Sleeping on your left side also keeps the uterus off the liver, which is on your abdomen’s right side.

When you sleep on your side, keep your knees and legs bent. By bending your legs and knees, you’re keeping your heart from working overtime.

How can I get comfortable?

In the side position, you should place a pillow — preferably a thick, sturdy pillow — under your top leg. By putting a pillow under your top leg rather than between your knees, you will correctly align your body. You’ll also relieve pressure from your bottom leg and lower back.

It’s perfectly fine to change positions throughout the night. If you land on your right side, don’t worry. While the left side is considered better, sleeping your right side will still ease many of the discomforts you feel during pregnancy.

Takeaway

Whether you’re in your first trimester or third, sleeping in the position that’s best for your body and your baby will help you have a smoother pregnancy. You should avoid sleeping on your back while pregnant, as it can cause pain and other health issues.

It’s important that you try to sleep as peacefully as possible. If you’re having trouble finding a position that works, speak with your doctor about options.