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Sleeping Positions

Finding Comfort During Pregnancy

Sleeping on Your Back
Is the Left Side Best?
Lightheaded and Nauseous

As your pregnancy progresses you will find that your normal sleeping positions are no longer working for you. Rule #1: Sleep in any position that is comfortable! Sleeping on your back can make you feel dizzy, weak, and nauseous. While sleeping on your stomach is fine and safe, but at some point it will be too uncomfortable.

It doesn’t really matter how you lie down to sleep until around 26 weeks gestation. Before 26 weeks, sleeping position should be dictated by comfort. At some point it will become too uncomfortable to sleep on your belly, at which time you are left with either side sleeping or back sleeping.

Most women are not comfortable sleeping on their side, with the hip and shoulder pointing to the ceiling. This position is especially uncomfortable during pregnancy as side sleeping can cause some significant side-ache pain. It doesn’t matter, right or left, sleeping in the sideways position is often painful.

Sleeping On Your Back

Lying on your back is safe, but it may not feel good. Get off your back if you feel yucky/dizzy or nauseous. Try sleeping tilted (with a pillow under one shoulder and one buttock), not on your side. Right or left side, it does not matter. If the side of the bed is against a wall, women could sleep with one shoulder and one buttock on the bed, and the others against the wall.

Both the pregnant mother and the growing baby will be fine if the mother sleeps tilted to one side. The blood flow to the mother is the same as the blood flow to the baby. A pregnant mom can not hurt the baby by lying on her back.

If there is a problem with blood flow, with the mom lying on her back, the mom will feel yucky. When this happens, she will reposition herself, and fix the blood flow issue, keeping mom and baby healthy.

Sleeping On Your Left Side

Women are told to sleep on the left side during pregnancy is to avoid blood vessel compression. This is because there is a large vein which carries blood back to the heart from the lower body, including the uterus. This vein can be compressed by the uterus when a woman lies on her back. The result of venous compression is slowed blood return to the heart, and less blood circulation to the body, including the uterus. Because of the change in blood flow you may start to feel nauseous and light headed, like someone is choking you or like you are about to pass out.

To prevent vein compression women are told to sleep on their left side. The vein is on the right, so leaning left gets the uterus away from the vein. Thus, sleeping on the left side is effective in preventing that choking feeling, BUT sleeping on the left side can be really uncomfortable.

By the Book

Our OLD understanding of how blood flow works during pregnancy led to the recommendation to sleep on the left side. And, its easier to say: ‘Sleep on your left side’ than to explain this entire process.

What’s Changed

With more and more research we are more aware of discomfort and other issues during pregnancy; and we know more about how the body works during pregnancy. The result is a change in what we tell pregnant women to do, so they are more comfortable at night. Ultimately, we know that babies are safe if mommies feel good.

Lightheaded & Nauseous

Some women experience nausea, lightheadedness, and a feeling like they are going to pass out when they are driving. The symptoms are a result of the uterus compressing the same vein discussed above. The IMMEDIATE solution is to pull over, take off the seat belt, and lean forward and toward the left. Once the feeling passes, you can try driving again. A few women are not able to drive late in pregnancy because the dizziness comes all the time.

Rest assured that these blood flow issues resolve almost immediately after delivery!