You find out that you are expecting a baby, and then start looking up things like; ‘what can or can’t I do now that I am pregnant?’
One thing that catches your eye is advice telling you that you should not be sleeping on your back when pregnant.
In this blog, we are going to help you understand why and when you should avoid laying on your back as well as some alternative ways you can try for sleeping when pregnant (especially if you have always been a back sleeper!).
When should I stop laying on my back?
It is generally recommended that you replace back-sleeping with side-sleeping from around 16-20 weeks gestation.
Why can’t I sleep on my back anymore: How sleeping on your back affect you and your growing baby
Sleeping on your back after the 16-20 week mark can rest the entire weight of your uterus and baby on your intestines and major blood vessels. Not only can this be very uncomfortable as your baby grows, but the position can interfere with circulation to your heart and your baby.
As mentioned, the weight of your baby presses on the main vein (the vena cava) which is responsible for returning blood from your lower body back to your heart.
Pressure on this vein can result in reduced blood flow to the foetus, giving your baby less oxygen and nutrients, and not to mention make you feel quite lightheaded and yuck!
Some other reasons we steer you away from laying on your back during pregnancy is because this position can also:
- Aggravate your back pain
- Aggravate haemorrhoids
- Make breathing more difficult
- Slow your digestion
- Cause dizziness (from low blood pressure).
I go to sleep on my side, but I occasionally wake up on my back. What happens if I wake up on my back?
If you occasionally wake on your back, don’t fret!
It is ok if every now and then you unwittingly turn on to your back in your sleep. You will most likely wake up if your belly is making you uncomfortable.
If you find you are waking on your back regularly, you can press a pillow behind your back when you are on your side to prevent you from being able to turn on to your back during your sleep (as shown in Option 3 below).
Ok, so I can’t sleep on my back. How else am I meant to sleep?
We are so glad you asked!!
The best way to sleep throughout your pregnancy is on your side.
Some say that lying on your left side is better as it aids in increasing blood and nutrients to your growing baby. However, if you manage to sleep comfortably on your right side just worry about getting a good night’s sleep while you can!
There are lots of variations for pillow positioning that you can use, but below are some that you might like to try!
Option 1 – Pillow between your knees
Try laying on your side, with a nice thick pillow between your knees. This position is great for your lower back and hip as it minimises rotation in your pelvis and lower back.
Option 2 – Pillow under your belly
If you feel that your tummy is getting too heavy when lying on your side, try putting a thinner pillow underneath your belly to relieve some of the weight.
This will also help with lower back and hip pain.
*Obviously not a real bump – No Chi Ball was harmed in the making of this photo.
Option 3 – Wedge a pillow behind your back
If you find that you are consistently waking up on your back and are concerned, wedge a pillow behind your back and slightly under your bottom when lying in your side. This will encourage you to not roll over onto your back.
Option 4 – Propped up
You may be suffering your heartburn or reflux. Propping your upper body up higher with a few extra pillows may help alleviate this when you are sleeping.
Hip or back pain now that you’re pregnant? More info here