Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

By Wendy Innes. May 7th 2016

For many, sleep can be illusive, especially for a woman who is pregnant. As her belly grows, it can be difficult to find a position that is comfortable and even if she does, repeated trips to the restroom in the middle of the night can mean that just as soon as she gets comfortable she'll have to get up and start all over again. In this article, we’ll give some helpful tips on finding the right sleeping positions during pregnancy.

Finding A Comfortable Sleeping Position While Pregnant

Comfort is paramount for everyone when sleeping. After all, few people can sleep if they are uncomfortable. Muscles and joints will become sore and start to ache, resulting in the person waking up. But pregnancy adds an extra challenge.

As the baby grows bigger and a woman's body changes to accommodate the baby it means that her muscles and joints are already sore and achy and the increasing weight of the baby can make it difficult for her to breathe or cause heartburn when trying to lie down. So what can be done?

There are several options for positions that are safe when pregnant and while they may not sound comfortable to someone who isn't pregnant, they just might be the thing for a pregnant woman.

The position that is most common is the "SOS" position, meaning sleeping on one’s side. Back sleeping is also acceptable, provided that the woman is not lying completely flat. This can force the pressure of her baby upward, making it difficult to breathe and causing heartburn, low blood pressure, hemorrhoids and other problems.

It's important to remember that people seldom ever stay in exactly the same position throughout the night, so a pregnant woman may wake up to find herself in an odd or uncomfortable position. In these situations, simply re-adjust and go back to sleep.

There are several pillows on the market that help to make sleeping more comfortable. These help to prop the woman in a particular position and cradle her growing belly.

Finding A Safe Sleep Position During Pregnancy

As soon as a woman finds out she is pregnant, one of the first things she worries about is the safety of her baby. When it comes to sleeping, often the worry is about rolling over on to the belly and crushing the baby. Now, imagine yourself sleeping on a beach ball. It doesn't sound very comfortable or easy to do, right? Belly sleeping is nearly impossible in the later stages of pregnancy.

While most experts recommend pregnant women sleep on their left side during the second and third trimester of their pregnancies, this is not universally accepted. For most women this is fine, but some women experience problems that prevent them from sleeping this way, mostly in the form of hip and back pain as well as nerve impingements in the lower back and legs.

Many women wonder, "Why is it recommended that I sleep on my left side?" The answer to this is that for most, this position relieves pressure on the intestines and the inferior vena cava, the major blood vessel that returns blood from the lower half of the body to the heart, ensuring healthy blood circulation to the baby.

New mothers-to-be need not worry if they wake up in a strange position. If the woman does happen to roll into a position that isn't the greatest, typically the symptoms of a problem such as nausea, dizziness, and trouble breathing will wake her up before there is any harm caused to the baby. Also, later in the pregnancy, if something is bothering the baby, the little one will begin kicking and moving, which will usually wake mom up and alert her that he or she is not happy.

Safety Precautions For Mom And The Baby

There is no doubt that sleeping when pregnant is a challenge after the first trimester. All the discomforts can make it rough, but how is someone supposed to stay in a safe sleep position? The answer is – pillows, and a lot of them, although in the later stages of pregnancy some women find the couch or a recliner more comfortable and supportive of their growing frame.

The best sleeping position when pregnant is the left side. The right side is alright, but it isn't the best. Sleeping on the back should probably be avoided, unless the other positions prove to be problematic. If a pregnant woman is sleeping on her back because side-sleeping causes hip and back problems, then she should not lie flat, but be propped up by several pillows.

There are several special pillows available at retailers that help pregnant women get comfortable but often the regular ones will do the trick. One between the knees, one under the belly, and one or two under the head can help relieve aches and help the woman get comfortable.

If a pregnant woman is sleeping on her back (after discussing it with her doctor, of course), there are wedge shaped pillows and large pillows with arms, sometimes called a "boyfriend pillow" or a "husband pillow" that can keep the woman more upright.

The most important thing a pregnant woman can do when she is having sleep problems is talk to her doctor. Each woman is different, as is each pregnancy and her doctor can advise her as to what the best course of action is in her individual situation. And above all else, it's important to keep everything in perspective. Pregnancy is relatively short, and once the baby is born, mom can happily go back to sleeping in whatever position she likes… until the baby wakes up again.


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