Why You Shouldn't Sleep on Your Back While Pregnant

Pregnant woman asleep in bed.
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There are a lot of dos and don'ts in pregnancy. Sometimes the list begins to feel endless. The truth is, there are some things that are truly potentially harmful and others that aren't really that worrisome. There are also things that you can actually do something about, and others that you can't. The good news is that the position that you sleep in is something you can control.

Why Back Sleeping Can Be Problematic

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 of your pregnant uterus can decrease the blood flow in the vena cava, the vein that carries blood from 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 thus, to your baby.

Side Sleeping Is Best

The vena cava runs slightly to the right of your spine, so that's why you may hear that lying on your left side is the best option in pregnancy. The key is not to sleep on your back; either side is usually fine. If you happen to prefer the right side, it's not a big deal. Most pregnant people wind up shifting from side to side through the course of the night anyway.

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

Try Using a Pillow

Using pillows between your legs while you sleep can be more comfortable and help prevent back pain while you sleep from strain placed on your back. It can also help you remember not to roll over on your back, even when you're asleep. You can also use a pillow behind your back as a reminder to not roll over; if you feel it during the night, you'll stop rolling, even if you're fast asleep.

Any pillow will work, but there are special pillows made for pregnant women. They may come in different shapes and sizes. Choose the one that works for you, even if that's simply a regular pillow. The nice part is that the extra support behind your back can help provide added support on your back and hips.

When in Doubt, Consult a Professional

If you're really concerned about your sleeping position, talk to your doctor or midwife. He or she 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.

When You Have Insomnia

Many pregnant women already suffer from insomnia. Certainly, sleep 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, including eating a snack, reading a book, taking a warm bath, and making sure you go to bed when you feel sleepy.

Source:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Back Pain During Pregnancy. Published January 2016.

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