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    Sleep position in pregnancy Q&A

    Evidence-based information on the safest sleep position in pregnancy for your baby.

    Tommy's PregnancyHub

    Sleep position in pregnancy Q&A

    In the third trimester of pregnancy going to sleep on your side has been shown to help prevent stillbirth.

    In the third trimester our advice is to go sleep on your side because research has shown that this is safer for baby. This includes night sleep and day time naps.

    Can I sleep on my back during pregnancy?

    Research has shown that in the third trimester (after 28 weeks of pregnancy) going to sleep on your back increases your risk of stillbirth. As the link has now been shown in four separate research trials, our advice is to go to sleep on your side in the third trimester because it is safer for your baby. The advice relates to any episode of sleep, including:

    going to sleep at night

    returning to sleep after any night wakenings

    day time naps.

    We don’t want you to become anxious about this. If your pregnancy is uncomplicated your risk of stillbirth is low (1 in 200 babies are stillborn). Going to sleep on your side will make it even lower.

    How reliable is the research?

    The research linking going to sleep on your back to stillbirth is very reliable. Four case control research studies (in which information from women who have had a stillbirth is compared with information from women who have not) have been carried out into maternal sleep position and stillbirth and all have shown that there is a link.

    What if I wake up on my back during the night?

    The research has been focused on position going to sleep, not position during the night. If you wake up on your back, just settle back to sleep on your side.

    We cannot control our position when we are asleep and a large bump is likely to be uncomfortable enough to prevent you from being on your back for long during the night. We also know that the position we go to sleep in is the position we spend the longest amount of time in during the night.

    What could cause the increased risk of stillbirth?

    Sleep position in the third trimester is important because if you are on your back the combined weight of baby and womb puts pressure on other organs in your body.

    Researchers do not know for certain what exactly is causing the increased risk of stillbirth, but we already know the following, which could play a part :

    When sleeping/lying on your back the baby and womb put pressure on the main blood vessels that supply the uterus and this can restrict blood flow/oxygen to the baby.

    Further recent studies have shown that when a woman lies on her back in late pregnancy (compared to lying on side) the baby is less active and has changes in heart-rate patterns. This is thought to be due to lower oxygen levels in the baby when the mother lies on her back.

    Does it make a difference which side I sleep on in pregnancy?

    There are many websites that tell you that the left side is best to sleep on during pregnancy. This is for the following reasons:

    One of the smaller research studies, from Auckland, New Zealand, showed that women who sleep on their left side on the last night of pregnancy halved their risk of stillbirth compared to those who slept on their right. However, the same finding has not been seen in any other trial (there have been three other published research studies since then).

    Sleeping on your left has been shown to help your kidneys to get rid of waste products and fluids from your body.

    Therefore, while sleeping on your left side has not conclusively been shown to reduce your risk against sleeping on your right, there are reasons that you might choose to do so.

    Tips for sleeping on your side in pregnancy

    Put pillows behind you to prevent falling on your back. It won’t prevent you being on your back for certain but is likely to make it more uncomfortable.

    If you have long hair, try tying it in a low bun, which may make it uncomfortable to sleep on your back for any length of time.

    If you wake up for any reason during the night, check your position and go back to sleep on your side.

    If you are likely to nap during the day pay the same attention to sleep position during the day as you would during the night.

    If you're finding sleeping on your side difficult because of SPD/PGP, try these tips.

    Is it harmful to sleep on my stomach in pregnancy?

    In the early days of pregnancy it is fine to sleep on your stomach. Your bump will not start showing until the second trimester and sleeping on your stomach is unlikely to be uncomfortable. In the third trimester, you will have a large bump and it is very unlikely that you would choose this position. However, if you do wake up on your stomach, don’t worry, just roll onto your side.

    Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.

    Stacey T1, Thompson JM, Mitchell EA, Ekeroma AJ, Zuccollo JM, McCowan LM.

    Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study. BMJ. 2011 Jun 14;342:d3403. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d3403.

    Gordon A1, Raynes-Greenow C, Bond D, Morris J, Rawlinson W, Jeffery H. Sleep position, fetal growth restriction, and late-pregnancy stillbirth: the Sydney stillbirth study. Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Feb;125(2):347-55. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000627.

    Source : www.tommys.org

    Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs?

    Unfortunately, your regular sleeping positions may no longer work for you during pregnancy – especially if you typically sleep on your back.


    HEALTH Should pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs?


    Michael Cackovic, MD

    Maternal Fetal Medicine Physician

    The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center

    July 16, 2018

    DURING PREGNANCY, you may find yourself wrestling in bed trying to get comfortable before falling asleep. Unfortunately, your regular sleeping positions may no longer work for you during pregnancy — especially if you typically sleep on your back.

    I normally advise my patients to try sleeping on their side at around 20 weeks of pregnancy, when a pregnant person’s belly really starts to expand.

    When you lie belly-up, the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel, called the vena cava, a large vein that runs up the right side of your vertebral column and carries deoxygenated blood from the lower and middle body to the heart. Compressing this can disrupt blood flow to your baby and leave you nauseated, dizzy and short of breath. Back sleeping can also constrict the aorta, blocking off the main blood supply to your body and placenta.

    What about sleeping on your stomach?

    Sleeping on your stomach is fine in early pregnancy — but sooner or later you’ll have to turn over. Generally, sleeping on your stomach is OK until the belly is growing, which is between 16 and 18 weeks. Once your bump starts to show, stomach sleeping gets pretty uncomfortable for most women. But avoiding your tummy isn’t just about what feels good — it’s also for safety reasons. Sleeping on your stomach has the same negative effects as sleeping on your back.

    Switching up your sleep

    Changing the way you sleep can be tricky, and it’s common to change positions during the night. As the stomach expands, sleeping on the back becomes more uncomfortable. Because of this, most women naturally shift to a different sleeping position. However, if you need help adjusting to side-sleeping, try slipping pillows between your knees and under your belly to make it more comfortable. If you still can’t comfortably make the switch to your side, use pillows to prop yourself into an incline, as sleeping on your back at a 45-degree tilt can prevent a lot of the compression.

    What if I wake up on my back or stomach?

    Don’t stress out over occasionally rolling over onto your back at night or waking up on your back. Your body would let you know if your baby was in any real danger of not getting enough oxygen — you’d feel nauseated and breathless long before your baby would have a problem. If you continue to wake up on your back or stomach, ask your partner to check on you. If they wake up and notice you on your back, they can gently move you back to your left side.

    More research needs to be done to determine any conclusive risks and, until then, it's best to follow the instructions of your doctor and organizations like the American Pregnancy Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

    Plus, you need your rest now more than ever — let's not give you one more thing to keep you up at night.

    Join the family of Buckeye Babies

    Learn about obstetrics and gynecology services from central Ohio's most experienced team.


    Michael Cackovic, MD, is a maternal fetal medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.


    Back Sleeping While Pregnant,

    Pregnant Sleeping on Back,

    Pregnant Sleeping Positions,

    Sleeping on Back While Pregnant,

    Stomach Sleeping While Pregnant,

    The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center,

    Vena Cava


    Health Women's Health


    The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center


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    Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy: How to Sleep When Pregnant

    Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy


    Colleen de Bellefonds

    Medically Reviewed by Andrei Rebarber, M.D.  on March 16, 2021


    Stomach, back or side? Here’s what you need to know about safe, comfortable sleep positions during pregnancy.


    Why is sleep so important during pregnancy?

    Sleeping positions in pregnancy

    What is the best position to sleep in pregnancy?

    Tips on comfortable pregnancy sleeping positions

    Pregnancy pillows to help you sleep

    What if you wake up sleeping on your back in pregnancy?

    Is not getting enough sleep harmful to me or my baby?

    Now that you need a good night's sleep more than ever, it's unfortunately harder than ever to get. Finding a comfortable sleep position can be challenging with your growing bump, and not every position works during pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know to stay comfortable and safe.

    Why is sleep so important during pregnancy?

    Sleep is the time when your body resets and repairs itself. It’s when your brain makes memories, making it an ally in your battle against baby brain. It’s how your blood vessels restore themselves, which is especially important now that they’re under increased pressure from the extra blood flow required to support your baby.

    Top Articles


    Health Benefits of Pregnancy

    and Motherhood

    Sleep also keeps your immune system — which is suppressed to support your pregnancy — healthy. And sleep controls how your body reacts to insulin; not getting enough results in a higher blood sugar level, upping your risk of gestational diabetes.

    What is the best position to sleep in pregnancy?

    Experts have traditionally said that the best sleep position when you’re expecting is on your left side — though your right is also perfectly acceptable. Past your first trimester, it becomes impossible to lie on your stomach for obvious reasons.

    Many experts also recommend that you avoid lying flat on your back all night long (but don't worry if you roll over during the night and wake up that way).

    However, some experts now say that pregnant moms can sleep in any position that's comfortable for them rather than worry too much about it one way or another.

    Sleeping positions in pregnancy

    Sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy

    If your favorite position is tummy-down, that’s okay — until your baby bump makes it uncomfortable or impossible, at which point you’ll have to switch positions.

    Sleeping on your back during pregnancy

    Some experts recommend pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs during the second and third trimesters. Why? The back sleep position rests the entire weight of the growing uterus and baby on your back, your intestines and your vena cava, the main vein that carries blood back to the heart from your lower body.

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    This pressure may aggravate backaches and hemorrhoids and make digestion less efficient, interfere with circulation, and possibly cause hypotension (low blood pressure), which can make you dizzy.

    Source : www.whattoexpect.com

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