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Can You Sleep On Your Back In The 3rd Trimester?

You're winding your way around third base into the home stretch of what feels like an elephant pregnancy. You're excited, yet achey and exhausted, and if one more well-meaning person advises you to "sleep now while you still can," you might scream. The uninterrupted sleep of your past feels like a stranger as you toss and turn between bathroom trips. You're desperate for some shut-eye, but there are so many rules about sleep in the third trimester. You know you shouldn't lay on your stomach, but you're wondering — can I sleep on my back in the third trimester?

Conservative medical recommendations advise pregnant women from sleeping flat on their backs after the first trimester out of concern for Supine Hypotensive Disorder, when the uterus compresses the vena cava to the point of restricting blood flow to the mother's heart and placenta, ultimately affecting the baby in utero, according to an article in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. A study performed in New Zealand also indicated there could be a correlation between expectant mothers who sleep in the supine position and a slightly increased occurrence of stillbirths.

Sounds scary, right? But before you freak out, keep in mind that the conclusion of that study specified is the first of its kind and much more evidence is needed. Meanwhile, other research studies have actually found that the concern may be invalid, as their work resulted in no perceivable difference in healthy infant blood flow when the mother's sleeping position changed.

Romper reached out to Leigh Anne O'Connor, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in New York City for her advice for mothers-to-be. O'Connor says that if sleeping on your back is the best way to get the rest you need, you shouldn't be scared of what might not even be a legitimate risk. She does recommend elevating your legs with a pillow under your knees, but she doesn't believe the supine position to be unsafe.

In the end, this might be yet another pregnancy issue that requires you to make the best informed decision for yourself. Two equally responsible women may come to different conclusions, and that's worthy of respect. The most important thing is doing your homework, talking to a provider you trust, and feeling confident that you're doing what's right for you.