Why is sleeping on your back in pregnancy a problem?

Back Sleeping in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman asleep in bed.
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During pregnancy you will often hear that sleeping on your back is a bad idea. The reason has to do with your anatomy. When you lay on your back after about the fourth month of pregnancy, the weight from your pregnant uterus can decrease the blood flow in the vena cava, the vein that brings blood form the lower part of your body to the heart. If this were to happen, there is a risk of decreasing the blood flow to your uterus and baby.

The vena cava runs slightly to the right of your spine. This is why you may hear that laying on your left side is the best option in pregnancy. The key is really not laying on your back, either side is usually fine.

So what happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and you're laying on your back? First of all, don't worry about it. Just roll over onto a side or prop your body with a pillow to turn you one direction or the other.

One pregnant mom said, "Everyone kept telling me how horrible it was to sleep on your back. I tried to avoid it, but would wake up on my back about once a week. My midwife finally convinced me that it wasn't going to hurt the baby. Maybe I was waking up to help me move. Who knows, but I decided to give up worrying about it."

Using pillows between your legs while you sleep can be more comfortable. It can also help you remember not to roll over on your back, even when you are asleep.

Any pillow will work, but there are special pillows made for pregnant women. You can also use a pillow behind your back as a reminder. The nice part is that the extra support can help alleviate back pain for some moms.

If you are really concerned about your sleeping position, I would recommend that you talk to your doctor or midwife.

They can help you understand what's going on and how to quantify the risk or non-risk to your baby. Don't lose more sleep over this position than you need to lose.

Many pregnant women already suffer from insomnia. Certainly positioning can play a part in how well you do or don't sleep. There are many different ways to deal with insomnia that can be used no matter what your sleep position is at night. "Thankfully," says Rosie, "I wasn't worried about it as much as I was worrying about sleep in general. Eventually you get too tired to care."

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