When a mom becomes pregnant for the first time, she’ll learn a list of things that she can and can’t do. Some may seem pretty obvious – like don’t eat raw fish, don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes, etc. However, there are a handful of things that a first time expecting mother might not realize she can’t do in her pregnancy which includes sleeping on her back.
If sleeping on your back is your favorite sleep position, don’t worry, you won’t have to switch things up until your second trimester. As you get to between 15 and 20 weeks gestation, the uterus starts becoming large enough to interfere with blood flow when you sleep on your back. It can compress the inferior vena cava (IVC), a large vein that runs up the right side of your vertebral column. The IVC carries deoxygenated blood from the lower and middle body to the heart. As a result, your blood pressure can drop, and you may feel lightheaded or nauseated. If your blood pressure drops, the blood flow to your uterus and baby may decrease.
Not only is this a cause for concern for the health of you, but this is also a concern for the health of your baby. Research has found that sleeping on your back in late pregnancy is linked to stillbirths.
Stillbirths affect roughly 1% of pregnancies. A stillbirth is defined as the death of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. Research shows scientists have found that women are twice as likely to be at risk for stillbirth when she sleeps on her back in late pregnancy.
The study published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology interviewed 291 women who had a stillbirth and 733 women who had a live birth which confirmed what smaller similar studies have shown: After 28 weeks of pregnancy, there is a link between the sleeping position of the mother and the likelihood of having a stillbirth. Specifically, mothers slept on their back saw chances of having a stillbirth increase 2.3 times for mothers who went to sleep on their left side. Even more, the middle of the night bathroom runs actually helped to reduce the risk of having a stillbirth.
If you’re used to sleeping on your back, there are ways to make sleeping on your side more comfortable. A pregnancy pillow can be a total game changer for moms-to-be who are getting used to sleeping on their side. A few that we recommend are the Remedy Full Body Pregnancy Contour U Pillow ), Leachco Snoogle or the Leachco Back n Belly Chic. These body pillows provide comfort and can support your growing belly and help you adjust to sleeping on your side.
You’ll notice that most blogs and books will recommend sleeping on your left side. But why does sleeping on your left side matter the most? Sleeping on your right side can still compress the IVC and isn’t as safe as sleeping on your left. According to americanprengnacy.org, sleeping on your left side increases the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping at night and getting into a comfortable position and a relaxed state, there are a few things you can try. For one, taking a magnesium supplement will help you relax and avoid leg cramps and restless leg syndrome. If you have an essential oil diffuser at home, try diffusing lavender essential oil to help induce relaxation and help you sleep better. Lastly, try drinking more water during the daytime and reduce your water intake before bedtime so you don’t make as many trips to the bathroom at night. If you choose to reduce your water intake at night, be sure to drink a big glass of water as soon as you wake up to rehydrate yourself after not drinking water for a good 10 hours or so.
So, hang in there mama. You don’t have to sleep on your left side for the rest of your life, just for a few months to keep yourself and your baby healthy. After the baby arrives, you can go back to sleeping on your back or belly all you want!