Sleeping and Lying on your Back during Pregnancy

As your pregnancy advances, finding a comfortable position to sleep in becomes harder, considering the tremendous changes your body goes through. The “SOS” or sleep on the side is an ideal sleeping posture during this period, as laying on your back for long may actually be harmful to you and your unborn baby [1].

Sleeping on your Back while Pregnant

Can you sleep on your back while pregnant

You can retain your favorite sleeping posture in the initial stage of your pregnancy, but as your baby and belly start to grow, you need to avoid sleeping on your back [3].

When should you stop sleeping on your back during pregnancy

Besides doctors not recommending it after the first trimester, sleeping in this position for long would be difficult for you too as your uterus size is increasing with every passing month [2, 3, 5].  If pregnant with twins, you should stop lying on your back earlier as the uterus grows bigger much sooner [13].

Why is it bad to sleep on your back while pregnant

When you lay on your back for a long duration, your growing uterus might compress the major vein (vena cava) carrying blood to your baby. This may, therefore, come in the way of adequate blood flow and proper nutrient supply to the unborn baby, not to mention giving you a feeling of physical discomfort [2,3].

As the vena cava is located in the right side of your body, the left side is considered as the perfect sleeping position during pregnancy [2].

A study mentions that mothers sleeping on their back in the later phase of their pregnancy are more prone to having a stillbirth, particularly if they are already having a high-risk pregnancy [6, 10].

What happens if you lay on your back

If you find yourself waking up on your back even after going to bed on your side, do not panic as it would not affect your baby. Just alter your posture as you go back to sleep [3, 5]. However, intentionally sleeping on your back on a regular basis may lead to nausea, dizziness, breathing trouble, low blood pressure and increased back pain [5, 8, 9], apart from all the harm it might cause your baby.

If you already have hemorrhoids, this sleeping position might also worsen your condition by putting pressure on your rectal area [7].

What to Do if You Need to Lie on Your Back

  • If suffering from heartburn or shortness of breath, you can sleep on your back with propped up pillows [1] at a  45° angle, as this would prevent the vena cava from getting compressed.
  • You may need to lie on your back while attending prenatal yoga classes; just make sure you are not staying in that position for a long time.

To have a comfortable sleep sans any disturbance, it is, therefore, essential to prevent sleeping on your back and stomach, as well as adopt a proper posture while lying down.

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