Can sleeping on your back hurt your baby?

October 30, 2013 12:00 AM by

It's no secret that sleep during pregnancy is a lot different than your normal sleep habits. For one thing, you'll probably be waking up during the night a lot more, whether it's because you have to pee or because you're experiencing leg cramps, back aches or heartburn. And with a baby bump, it can be hard to get comfortable. But there are certain positions that are better than others. Obviously, sleeping on your stomach is not only a bad idea, but it's nearly impossible – especially in the second and third trimester. Sleeping on your back is also not recommended – here's why.

What happens when you sleep on your back?
Sleeping on your back isn't the end of the world, but it can present problems, especially in the latter stages of pregnancy. When you lie on your back, the weight of your uterus and the baby presses on your inferior vena cava, which is a vein that carries deoxygenated blood to your heart from your lower body. This slows the return of blood to your heart, which reduces blood flow to the fetus, giving your baby less oxygen and nutrients. It's not a big deal if you catch yourself sleeping on your back every now and then during the first or second trimester, but you shouldn't be doing it every night. As the months go on, it'll probably be less comfortable for you to do so anyway, so there's really no reason to worry, as your body will correct itself if it's uncomfortable.

How should you sleep during a pregnancy?
Sleeping on your side is your only option, and for years experts have touted that it's best to sleep on your left side. The left side has been thought to provide maximum blood flow and reduce swelling in the legs, but it really doesn't matter if you prefer to sleep on your right side. Many pregnant women find that they're most comfortable with plenty of support from pillows. Try putting one between your legs, under your belly and behind your back. Or, try a wedge-shaped pillow or full-length body pillow for support, which you can mold to whichever shape you like best.

If you ever start to feel dizzy, sweaty, nauseous or short of breath, whether you're lying flat or on your right side, try turning on your left side.

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