Pregnancy and sleep positions
Laurie Erickson, MD, is vice chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your physician or call (602) 241-1671.
Question: I’ve heard that if you’re pregnant, you shouldn’t sleep on your back. What position is best?
Answer: Starting with the second trimester of pregnancy, expectant mothers should avoid sleeping flat on their backs. In this position, the growing uterus falls toward the back and can compress major blood vessels that run along the spine. This pressure can reduce blood flow to the uterus and baby.
By sleeping on one side or the other, the uterus is tilted off these blood vessels. Lying on the left side is somewhat better for blood flow than the right, but most women need to switch back and forth in order to rest comfortably.
Later in pregnancy, finding a comfortable sleep position becomes increasingly difficult. Expectant mothers may have more restful sleep if they regularly stretch to minimize back pain, engage in a physician-approved exercise program, eat a healthy diet, and sleep on a firm mattress. Many pregnant women find surrounding themselves with pillows to be very beneficial as well. A pillow between the legs helps to align the hips; a pillow beneath the belly provides additional support for the middle; and leaning against a pillow behind the back gives the sensation of lying on the back without adding unnecessary pressure to blood vessels.
Getting proper rest during pregnancy is very important for both expectant mother and developing baby. Aim for at least seven to eight hours a night, and try to take naps as often as possible.
Reviewed September 2010