Can You Sleep on Your Back While Pregnant?

sleeping on back while pregnant

Even if you never saw yourself as a maternal type, the moment you find out that you are pregnant, you will start doing all those things you heard are good for the baby, as well as abstain from actions that may hurt the little one. But the truth is when you are carrying your first one, you are not sure about anything. You will hear a lot of stuff about pregnancy, but how reliable are those claims? For example, your neighbor told you for the sake of the baby, you must not, by any cost, sleep on your back. Is that true? And if it is, why the heck not?

There is no doubt you will face some challenges during these nine months, and one of those certainly refers to finding the right position during the night’s rest. We researched this topic and found out what experts had to say when it comes to sleeping on the back while pregnant.

Is It Safe to Sleep on Your Back While Pregnant?

Although it cannot be said with an absolute assertion that it’s dangerous to sleep on the back during pregnancy, most doctors will not recommend it. The explanation is based on the fact that your uterus is becoming bigger and bigger as time goes on, and at one point, when you are around the fifth month, it will put great pressure on your inferior vena cava if you take this sleeping position. Because of that, there can be less blood flow to your heart, which may infect the baby too. Also, there are some studies that lead to the conclusion that sleeping on the back during late pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth. Besides those terrifying facts, there can be few more side effects.

sleeping on back during pregnancy

Breathing problems

Both you and your baby need continuous air supply. If sleeping on your back, you will be most likely to snore, or much worse, to experience sleep apnea. While releasing the unpleasant noises can only make your partner anxious, the other thing can be quite scary. So it would be better to lay on the left or right side of your body in order to prevent that outcome. 

Backache

Your whole body is growing, including the uterus, as we previously mentioned, so that extra weight will put some pressure on your back and your pelvis. That can lead to some backache, which will prevent you from having a good night’s rest, and believe us when we say – you need that more than anything else.

why can t you sleep on your back while pregnantLow blood pressure

The inferior vena cava is the main path for blood circulation between our heart and lower body, and that trajectory needs to stay fully passable. Given you will get some weight during this period, your body can exert huge pressure on it and cut off blood flow when you are lying on your back. That will decrease blood pressure, which is no good. It would be best to avoid sleeping on mattresses for back sleepers, too, in order to make it more comfortable to take a side position during the night.

Digestive issues

Most future mothers are suffering from acid reflux and heartburn, and sleeping on your back when pregnant can only make these things worse. The increased progesterone present in your body will smooth muscles that attach the esophagus with the stomach. Because of that, the acid will quickly go up to your throat.

Hemorrhoids

Another unpleasant occurrence in pregnancy is hemorrhoids. Most women that are carrying baby’s in their body suffer from constipation, and as a result of that, they have swollen veins in the anal area. Sleeping on your back during pregnancy will only make this problem get even worse, or at least more painful, since that way, you will put great pressure on the pelvic floor.

Fewer nutrients

As we already explained, the uterus will put pressure on the main vein in your body when lying on the back, but besides interrupting the blood circulation, which is bad enough per se, it will slow down the delivering nutrients as well. And those are necessary for the healthy development of the baby.

On Which Side Should You Sleep On While Pregnant?

Most gynecologists, especially those traditional ones, will say it’s best for future mothers to sleep on the left side of their body because the famous inferior vena cava is placed on the other, right side. It was previously believed that lying on the right side could compromise the blood flow. However, today’s modern specialists claim that whether you choose the left or right side to sleep on, you will maintain normal blood flow, which means it’s safe for both you and the baby to pick either side or to change positions during the night.

There are no reliable claims that it is dangerous, or by any chance, problematic to spend the night on the right side, except one study published in 2011, which was based on 155 women. It showed that there was a slightly increased risk of stillbirth with women who spent the night on their right the day before they miscarried, but those results have not been repeated, and therefore are not something you should rely on.

Most doctors will agree that sleeping on the left is perfect for pregnant women for numerous reasons. Besides the fact that you will have regular blood and nutrient flow, avoid the backache, more problems with hemorrhoids, breathing or digestion, you will take off the pressure from the liver, which is important because of the detoxification and filtration, and promote circulation.

how long is it safe to sleep on your back while pregnant

Best Advice for Moms-To-Be to Get Comfortable While Sleeping

First of all, don’t panic. If you find out that sleeping on the back while pregnant isn’t recommendable, you have enough time to get used to spending the night in different positions. It would be great to purchase a mattress for side sleepers, as well as some pregnancy-related pillows, that will make it easier for you to adjust to these novelties. In order to be sure you won’t roll over during the night on your back, try putting a pillow between your back and the mattress. That way, even if you do find yourself in the back, you will be on a bit of a tilt. The most important thing is you are not laying flat. Even if you are on a 20 or 30-degree angle, the pressure on vena cava will not be troublesome.

But the most important thing is for you to have the right amount of sleep, it’s one of the crucial things for a baby’s development and your health. Many women start panicking when they wake up at night and find themselves on their backs, thinking they might cause a baby’s brain damage, but there is no proof that something like that could happen. The doctors say there is no higher risk of developmental disorder of any kind in women who have slept on the back for a little while. While on the other side, less than five or six hours of sleep can increase the risk of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes in a pregnant woman. To maintain the right amount of sleep, try using the mattress for couples, the one that has excellent motion isolation, so you won’t be woken up by your partner as well.

FAQ

When should you stop sleeping on your back while pregnant?

You should start getting used to these new sleeping positions while pregnant right away, and stop sleeping on your back after 20 weeks of pregnancy. By that time, the baby will grow significantly, and the pressure of your uterus on vena cava might cause shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and other problems mentioned in the lines above.

How long is it safe to sleep on your back while pregnant?

If you accidentally roll over on your back during the night, and you wake up at some point, don’t start panicking. Just turn over to the side and continue with resting. Short periods you may spend like this won’t harm the baby. But make sure you have some kind of system that will prevent such thing from happening too often, like pillows placed around you that won’t let you turn.

What you should do if sleeping on a side is uncomfortable?

You simply have to find a way to make it work. The good thing is, you have time – the whole first trimester is a safe period for you to sleep in any position, but you should immediately start practicing staying on your side during the night. The C-shaped and U-shaped pillows for pregnant women will be your best friend in this matter, allowing you to make sleeping this way quite cozy.

sleeping on back when pregnant

Conclusion

The generation of our mothers or grandmothers didn’t know the stuff we do today, they didn’t have access to all this information, but they still managed to deliver healthy babies into this world. The truth is, our bodies are our best allies. They are always telling us what they need, it’s just a matter if you are listening to properly. Of course, we are in a huge advantage for having all figured out by many experts, but sometimes it’s scary having all those statistics in front of you and reading about all the ways things can go wrong. So try to relax and make sure to stay on track regarding the fundamental issues. Everything else should be just fine, even though you didn’t thoroughly research each pregnancy topic. When it comes to sleeping positions while pregnant, it’s definitely better to make yourself comfortable on the left or right side of your body. There are too many reasons why, so just do it and don’t bother yourself with the details. If you are a stomach or side sleeper, read our guide on how to train yourself to sleep on your back here.

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