From the moment you become pregnant, you will discover that sleep is a big topic of conversation. Whether it's that you can't seem to find a comfortable way to rest, deciding which sleep positions are safe, or simply not getting enough, snoozing — and doing it correctly — is kind of a big deal. But while exhaustion might be the only sleep subject on your mind during the first trimester, some pregnant women wonder, "Does it matter how I sleep in early pregnancy?" Because the truth is, you might end up face first on a pillow before you even give it a thought.
Luckily, you don't have to combat that first trimester fatigue with an entirely new sleep position. "During the first trimester (initial 12 weeks of pregnancy), the pregnancy grows at a rapid pace," Dr. Aaron Styer, the medical director of The Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Boston, tells Romper in an email interview. "During this time, the pregnancy will obtain the appropriate nutrients it needs regardless of sleep position, so there are no preferred or best sleep positions during early pregnancy."
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the best sleep position during pregnancy is “SOS” (sleep on side), even better if it's your left side. Sleeping on your left side will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby, the association noted.
"Laying on your left side not only satisfies both of these, but also takes pressure off of the inferior vena cava," Dr. Jaime Knopman, co-founder of TrulyMD, and director at New York's Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, tells Romper in an email interview. "By doing this, blood flow returns back to the heart and can be pumped out to the rest of the body."
Although sleeping on your back while pregnant will most likely not pose a risk, many doctors, like Knopman, say it's best to play it safe to avoid discomfort and potential health problems. But What To Expect maintained that this recommendation is most important during the second and third trimesters. This is when sleeping on your back would cause a growing uterus and baby to rest on your back, therefore compressing your inferior vena cava, the largest vein in the human body that runs through the abdomen, and compromising its ability to carry blood back to the heart from your lower body.
"The uterus is not large enough early in pregnancy to cause compression of the vena cava, which is the issue later in pregnancy that we recommend sleeping on the side," Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper.
But don't freak out if your body rolls into your standard on-the-back position. Dr. Allison Hill, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, explains to Romper that only 2 percent of women have any significant compression of this vein when lying flat, and even with compression, the fetus is typically unaffected. Hill does caution, however, that if lying on your back becomes uncomfortable because you feel short of breath, then you should move to a different position.
Of course, switching up your usual sleep position can be difficult and may result in a few sleepless nights. Try relaxing before bed with a cup of herbal tea, like chamomile. According to The Bump, magnesium supplements might also do the trick since the mineral is known to alleviate muscle pain, which is often the culprit of interrupted sleep as your belly continues to grow. Just check with your doctor about the correct dosage, since too much magnesium can cause diarrhea. Many women also swear by body pillows to ease discomfort while sleeping, or you can try sleeping on your side with a good ol' fashioned pillow between bent legs.
Ultimately, talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns about sleeping during pregnancy. Next to you, your doctor is most likely the second person to know your pregnant body best. And that good sleep is most certainly essential — as many people will tell you — "while you still can get it."
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