Quality sleep is one of the key pillars to overall good health and is especially important during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who gets less than five hours of sleep a night, is at an increased risk for conditions such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, according to experts.
Seeing as how sleep is such an integral part of nourishing your body and contributing to your growing fetus’ health, pregnant mums can take time to indulge in what must be a very welcome end to an exhausting day of growing a baby! Some sleeping positions have been linked to low birth weight and even stillbirth.
Sleeping while pregnant
As you approach the different hurdles brought forth by the three trimesters, one complaint probably stays the same throughout: Try as you might, you cannot seem to get comfortable enough to sleep! From frequent bathroom trips to the pressure (and sometimes pain) a growing bump puts on your body, let’s look at the various reasons for your discomfort and examine safe sleeping positions during pregnancy throughout each of the three trimesters.
Why is it difficult for me to get comfortable?
Pregnancy brings a host of changes and these, in turn, tend to disrupt your sleep. There are various reasons that make it especially difficult for you to get to sleep during pregnancy, and here are a few of them:
- Your growing abdomen and uterus
- Mild to severe back pain
- Morning sickness that seems to linger well into the rest of the day
- Pregnancy-related insomnia
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent trips to the bathroom to empty your bladder
- Conditions such as Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), or pelvic girdle pain (PGP)
However, regardless of what you are experiencing, it is important to try to get a good night’s sleep.
According to Dr. Grace Pien, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, “research suggests that pregnant women who are not getting enough sleep — less than 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night — probably are at increased risk for things like gestational diabetes, and potentially for things like preeclampsia.”
With sleep being such an integral part of your body’s recovery process, let’s examine the different sleeping positions that are safe for you throughout the three trimesters of your pregnancy.
Safe sleeping positions during pregnancy: First trimester
You can take it easy in the first trimester. Despite the discomfort that may arise out of myriad changes taking place in your body, the advice from experts is that any sleep position is fine during the first trimester of your pregnancy.
According to Dr. Sara Twogood, an ob-gyn at the University of Southern California, you would not have to change your sleeping position until you hit the second trimester.
“Before 12 weeks, you can sleep any way you want. A lot of women have breast tenderness or sensitivity, so many aren’t comfortable sleeping on their stomachs early on. But it’s just discomfort—it won’t cause any harm,” she notes.
However, with all the increasing and compelling evidence about the risk of stillbirth associated with a supine sleeping position in your third trimester.
It is always better if you could practice early so that by the time you reach that part of your pregnancy you would have gotten accustomed to sleeping on your side, which is considered the best sleeping position for pregnant women if you were always a back or stomach sleeper.
Sleeping in any position is usually fine early on. If you wish to develop the habit of favoring one side, place a pillow between your legs. This could aid in the relief of hip and lower-body discomfort.
If you want to be a little more, well, extra, you can choose an orthopedic knee cushion composed of memory foam.
Sleeping while pregnant: Second and third trimesters
Some sleeping positions may not be safe after the first trimester. Photo: iStock
As you approach the second, and mostly the third trimester, the best (experts may argue that perhaps the only!) sleeping position would be the side-sleeping position.
In particular, sleeping on your left side increases the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby, and takes the pressure on your liver and kidneys thereby enabling optimal functioning of your organs in order to flush out toxins and helping alleviate edema (swelling).
Tummy-sleepers have it a bit easier as they naturally find it very difficult to sleep on their stomachs as the pregnancy progresses and their baby bump grows bigger, prompting them to adopt a more comfortable and safe sleeping position instead.
However, if you have always slept supine prior to pregnancy, you should avoid sleeping on your back at this point in your pregnancy as your growing abdomen and uterus puts their entire weight and thus a lot of pressure on your intestines and major blood vessels (the aorta and vena cava), in this position.
Sleeping on your back during late pregnancy might cause problems for your baby
Sleeping in THIS position during pregnancy can save your baby’s life!
Stillbirth: Why is Sleeping on the Side So Important in Pregnancy?
Sleeping in a supine position during the last two trimesters of pregnancy can:
- worsen backaches and aggravate hemorrhoids
- bring about problems in your respiratory system as it interferes with circulation. This can possibly cause hypotension (low blood pressure), which can make you lightheaded and dizzy
- interfere with your digestive system, and make digestion less efficient
- a decrease in circulation that may also reduce blood flow to the fetus, giving your baby less oxygen and nutrients. In some cases, a supine sleeping position has been linked to fatal stillbirth and a tragic end to your pregnancy.
Make sure your mattress is firm enough to keep your back from drooping as your belly grows. Put a board between the mattress and the box spring if yours is too soft.
Pregnant pillows are another option. They come in U or C forms and wrap around your entire body to help you sleep on your side. Hug the front of the cushion and slide it between your legs, allowing it to run along your back.
Continue to use a pregnancy pillow for support. Consider wedge pillows if you’re having problems sleeping because of your growing stomach. Place them beneath your belly button and behind your back to keep from rolling.
If you can’t seem to get used to sleeping on your side, prop yourself up with pillows at a 45-degree angle. This keeps you from sleeping flat on your back and lessens IVC compression.
You can also use books or blocks to raise the head of your bed a few inches.
Sleeping position during pregnancy: Side sleeping
Side-sleeping, and on the left side, in particular, is considered the ideal sleeping position during the last two trimesters. Photo: iStock
Sleeping on your left side is considered to be the “ideal” position during pregnancy.
The optimum blood flow from your inferior vena cava is achieved by lying on your left side (IVC). This large vein runs parallel to your spine on the right side of your spine and transfers blood to your heart and, eventually, to your baby.
The pressure on your liver and kidneys is relieved by sleeping on your left side. This allows you to move around more freely and reduces swelling in your hands, ankles, and feet.
Should the right side be avoided if the left side is better? Definitely not.
According to the 2019 study, sleeping on the left or right side is equally safe. There’s a little chance of compression issues with the IVC if you sleep on your right, but it’s more a matter of personal preference.
Sleeping on your side is the optimal position then for pregnant women in their second and third trimesters.
To make this position easier you could try out the following tips:
- Place a pillow under your belly so that your abdomen stays raised and your back and hips are adequately supported. You may use just about any extra pillow that you have lying around. A bolster pillow or you may want to invest in a pregnancy pillow that works all throughout pregnancy and can sometimes aid you through breastfeeding as well.
- Keep your legs and knees bent, and put a pillow between your legs. This helps to foster a more comfortable side-sleeping position by keeping your legs level. As many mums have discomfort while sleeping on the side as their top leg is almost always resting on their bottom leg. But keeping them level using a pillow gets rid of this issue and facilitates a smoother side-sleeping experience
However, if sleeping on your side seems impossible, try propping your upper body with pillows, at a 45-degree angle. So you do not lie completely flat and sleep at an incline.
This will take the compression off your major blood vessels and will also help alleviate symptoms of heartburn or shortness of breath during the night.
Wrong sleeping positions during pregnancy
According to specialists, some sleeping positions are less healthier than sleeping on your side. They include:
1. Stomach Sleeping
Many pregnant women are worried that laying on their stomach would harm their baby. The uterus, on the other hand, provides ample protection for the fetus, therefore lying down on your stomach during the first trimester is unnecessary.
As their pregnancy progresses, most women find that sleeping on their stomach becomes impossible or painful.
There’s no need to be concerned about women who still like to sleep on their stomachs or wake up on their fronts every now and then. If you sleep on your stomach, the baby will not be harmed.
With many sleeping pillows, some pregnant women may find it easier to sleep on their stomach. It is quite safe to use these devices and to sleep on your stomach.
2. Back Sleeping
Sleeping on your back is generally considered safe during the first trimester.
Following that, you may have heard that laying on your back all night has been related to stillbirth in research. Before you get too excited, remember that the studies are small and that other factors like sleep apnea could be at play.
These studies, on the other hand, cannot be completely ignored. Finally, not sleeping on your back after 28 weeks may lessen your risk of stillbirth by 5.8%Trusted Source.
Other downsides of lying on your back include: This position can cause back pain, hemorrhoids, digestive issues, and poor circulation. It may also cause dizziness or lightheadedness.
Tips on sleeping while pregnant
- Getting a doctor to perform a vitamin deficiency test. Folic acid or iron are sometimes used for restless leg syndrome (RLS). Before taking supplements to address any disease, it’s vital to obtain medical counsel.
- Have a light lunch before retiring to bed. Some women, particularly those in their first trimester, wake up hungry. Nuts, salmon, peanut butter, and meat might help a woman feel satiated before bed since protein-rich foods can suppress hunger.
- Smaller, less fatty meals can help to alleviate heartburn.
- Trying out some pregnant pillows. There are many different types of pillows to pick from on the internet.
- Antacids should be taken. Over-the-counter (OTC) antacids are safe to take during pregnancy, but you should always see your doctor before taking any medicine, including OTC antacids.
- Snoring should be discussed with a doctor. Snoring can make breathing difficult during pregnancy.
- Elevating the body and head can help with heartburn. Sleeping in a semi-sitting position, such as on the side in a reclining chair, is beneficial to some women.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore
Updates by Margaux Dolores
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