- Confused about your sleeping position while pregnant?
- Current advice about best position
- Who to trust best?
The current prevalent advice is to insist that women not lie on their backs while pregnant, during sleep in particular. This is an exaggerated concern and at best a recommendation that could be followed by some women, when deemed useful, but not for otherwise normal and healthy women experiencing a normal and healthy pregnancy.
Ever try sleeping on one side for an entire night while pregnant? And stay sleeping like that for 300 more nights give or take one!
Common sense among the various experts of physios, GPs, obstetricians and mothers (experts in the comfort and wellbeing of their own bodies) – have always prevailed as to what is the most comfortable for the mother-to-be: in that it is very important for her to have some quality of sleep at night. If she is more comfortable on her back, there are options (such as pillows) to support her comfort and reassure her that her sleeping position is not compromising either her or her baby’s well-being.
Recommended Sleeping Options
- Sleep with a large pillow elevating your upper body from the shoulders up
- Place a pillow under your knees
- Place a small hand-towel under your left or right hip to tilt your pelvis slightly off-centre
These small points of elevation support a woman’s pregnant body when lying on her back, redistribute her weight away from the lower back and vena cava, and support and increase her ability to sleep more comfortably. Every woman will turn during sleep a number of times, based on her body sending signals, to change position because she is experiencing some discomfort, naturally inducing her to turn. Pregnancy and sleeping are not always the best of companions, but to suggest as some prevalent advice does that woman should sleep upright in an armchair to prevent any risk at all, borders on the ludicrous! That advice raises an unjustified concern and infers that pregnancy is a very risky business. However, it may be pertinent for a small number of women with health concerns such as pregnancy-induced eclampsia!
Signs of discomfort signalling a need to turn
- A sense of nausea or even heartburn symptoms
- Back discomfort
A lot of women are more comfortable sleeping on their sides and have no complaints about it; perhaps they were already side-sleepers before pregnancy or it is naturally more comfortable for them, now they are pregnant. However, for other women that may not be the case and the best advice is – to sleep however most comfortable, and not according to the latest dictates of current medical thinking, although seemingly informed. During the later stages of pregnancy, the uterus and baby may be large enough to press on the large vein, the inferior vena cava, and reduce flow of blood from the lower body (and uterus) back to the heart. But this tends to matter only in certain circumstances such as high blood pressure, if the kidneys are not functioning properly, or if there is a problem with foetal development or prolonged labour with a woman lying on her back (being monitored for instance or under the effects of an epidural). In those situations, lying on the left side may be somewhat helpful, but for normal, healthy women in the midst of a routine, successful pregnancy, the best position for sleeping is the one that’s most comfortable. Possible concerns might be:
- Previous miscarriage – in which case to commence past the first trimester
- Severe discomfort and pain symptoms in the pelvic or abdominal area
- Blood spotting – always needs to be checked out at any time during your pregnancy
- Heartburn / gastro-oesophagul reflux
Claire is a Childbirth Educator, counsellor and bodyworker. She specialises in Pregnancy and postnatal services.
Make an appointment or call Claire on 0438 216 351
The Healing Practice at 129b Balmain Rd, (next to the Cupcake Room) Leichhardt NSW 2040, in Sydney’s Innerwest