If you’re pregnant and wondering how to sleep comfortably and safely, read these tips. Sleeping during pregnancy can be tricky. When I reached my second trimester, I realized I needed to change my sleeping position to ensure my baby’s health. This made me anxious and affected my ability to sleep through the night.
So, I decided to seek advice from experts to understand if what I read online was true. After all, every pregnancy is different. I was already using a pregnancy pillow for comfort and support.
By the time the third trimester came around, I had switched my sleeping position to protect my baby and be more comfortable.
My usual way of sleeping on my stomach was no longer an option. If you’re in the early stages of pregnancy and have questions about this, here’s what some OB-GYNs have to say about the best sleeping positions during pregnancy.
Why you need to change your sleep position during pregnancy
It’s crucial to understand why changing your sleep position is important during pregnancy, particularly in the second trimester and beyond.
Doctors advise against sleeping flat on your back (or stomach) because your growing uterus can put pressure on a large vein called the inferior vena cava. This vein is responsible for carrying deoxygenated blood from your lower body to your heart. When the inferior vena cava gets compressed, it can reduce blood flow back to the heart from your legs.
This, in turn, lowers cardiac output and blood pressure, which can affect the blood flow to the uterus and potentially reduce oxygen supply to the baby.
Dr. Alan Peaceman, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine, warns that if the vena cava is compressed for extended periods, it can lead to problems like low birth weight, stillbirth, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes, and it may increase the chances of needing a cesarean section.
However, if you’re in the early part of your second trimester, it’s generally okay to sleep on your back or stomach because the uterus doesn’t put pressure on the vena cava until around 28 weeks (the start of the third trimester).
By then, you should change your sleep position, as you might experience symptoms like dizziness and shortness of breath if your vena cava is compressed. Rolling over can help restore normal blood pressure and blood flow.
The recommended sleeping positions
Once you’re aware that sleeping on your back or stomach isn’t the best choice during pregnancy, it’s good to know which positions are recommended for a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping on your left side is considered the best. It helps with proper blood flow from the vena cava, which can prevent swelling in your hands, ankles, and feet. It also eases pressure on your kidneys and liver.
To make this position comfier, you can use pillows to support your back, belly, and legs. You can even bend your knees and place a pillow between them to reduce strain on your hips and lower back, as suggested by Dr. Patel.
Sleeping on your right side is also okay. A study from 2021 found that sleeping on the left or right side didn’t show any problems with stillbirth or having a small baby.
However, if you sleep on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy, it might double the chances of stillbirth or having a small baby.
Dr. Peaceman recommends even a small tilt of about 15 degrees to either side is enough to take the pressure off the vena cava.
How to make side sleeping more comfortable
If you’re not used to sleeping on your side and want to make it more comfy during pregnancy, a pregnancy pillow can help. I used to switch between my right side and stomach before getting pregnant.
Now, in my third trimester, I switch between sleeping on my right and left side, and it took some adjusting. I was never really a left-side sleeper, so using a full-body pregnancy pillow like the Momcozy Maternity Body Pillow and a wedge pillow like the Hiccapop Pregnancy Pillow Wedge made a big difference.
The wedge pillow supports my growing belly, and the body pillow keeps me in the right position and stops me from rolling onto my back. I also like my head a bit higher when I sleep, so I add a regular pillow, making it feel like a cozy sleep nest.
But if you do find yourself waking up on your back or stomach some mornings (I know I have), there’s no need to worry. Dr. Patel says that occasional back or stomach sleeping is unlikely to harm your baby, as long as you change your position as soon as you realize it.
The only time it’s concerning is if you spend a long time in these positions, especially during the third trimester, as it can increase the risk of complications.
If you’re still having trouble staying asleep on your left or right side, Dr. David Caiseda suggests trying a reclining chair for extra comfort.
Pregnancy can be tough, and worrying about how to sleep shouldn’t add to your stress. Fortunately, you can make it more comfortable with things like pregnancy pillows. If you ever have questions or concerns about the safest way to sleep during pregnancy or your baby’s health, it’s always best to talk to your doctor. They can provide guidance and support for a smoother pregnancy journey.
- Can sleeping on my stomach during the first trimester harm my baby?Answer: Sleeping on your stomach during the early stages of pregnancy is generally safe because the uterus doesn’t put pressure on the vena cava until around the start of the third trimester. However, it’s advisable to transition to a different sleeping position as your pregnancy progresses to ensure the baby’s health.
- Is it necessary to use a pregnancy pillow for side sleeping during pregnancy?Answer: While it’s not mandatory, many pregnant women find pregnancy pillows to be incredibly helpful for maintaining a comfortable side-sleeping position. These pillows provide support for your back, belly, and legs, making it easier to sleep on your side without discomfort.
- Can occasional back or stomach sleep harm the baby during pregnancy?Answer: Occasional back or stomach sleeping is unlikely to harm your baby as long as you change your position as soon as you realize it. The concern arises when you spend an extended period in these positions, especially in the third trimester, as it can increase the risk of complications.
- Are there specific pregnancy pillows you recommend for side sleeping?Answer: Yes, there are various pregnancy pillows available in the market. The article mentions the “Momcozy Maternity Body Pillow” and the “Hiccapop Pregnancy Pillow Wedge,” which can help make side sleeping more comfortable. However, you can explore different options and choose the one that suits you best.
- When should I start sleeping on my side during pregnancy?Answer: It’s advisable to transition to side sleeping during the second trimester, ideally around 28 weeks, to avoid putting pressure on the inferior vena cava. This can help ensure proper blood flow to your baby and reduce the risk of complications.
- Can using a reclining chair be a comfortable alternative for side sleeping during pregnancy?Answer: Yes, if you’re having trouble staying asleep on your left or right side, you can consider using a reclining chair for extra comfort. This alternative position can relieve the pressure on the vena cava and provide a more comfortable sleeping experience.
- How can I prevent swelling in my hands, ankles, and feet during pregnancy?Answer: Sleeping on your left side can help prevent swelling in your extremities by ensuring proper blood flow. You can further enhance comfort by using pillows to support your back, belly, and legs, and by bending your knees and placing a pillow between them to reduce strain on your hips and lower back.
- What complications can arise from extended periods of sleeping on your back during pregnancy?Answer: Prolonged back sleeping during pregnancy can lead to the compression of the inferior vena cava, reducing blood flow to the uterus and potentially causing complications such as low birth weight, stillbirth, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and an increased risk of needing a cesarean section.
- Is it safe to sleep on my right side during pregnancy?Answer: Sleeping on your right side is generally considered safe during pregnancy, and a study from 2021 found no problems with stillbirth or having a small baby when compared to sleeping on the left side. However, it’s best to avoid prolonged back sleeping after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- FAQ: How can I make side sleeping more comfortable if I’m not used to it?
Answer: If you’re not accustomed to side sleeping, using pregnancy pillows, such as a full-body pregnancy pillow and a wedge pillow, can make a significant difference. These pillows provide support for your growing belly and help you maintain the correct sleeping position.