Pregnancy is full of a wide range a peculiar symptoms. There are all the familiar ones, like fatigue, nausea, sore — and uncomfortably enormous — breasts... and then there are the symptoms that leave you thinking, "OK, is that weird or normal?" Things like clumsiness and pregnancy brain are super strange, but expected. Other super strange symptoms come as a total surprise, however. Like, can you feel a pulse in your belly when you're pregnant? If you know what I'm talking about, you know it feels kind of crazy. But also, kind of awesome. I mean, if you can feel baby hiccups in there, why wouldn't you be able to feel a pulse too?
To find out more, I checked in with Ashlyn Biedebach, nurse, doula and pregnancy expert of By The Brook Birth Doula. Is feeling your baby's pulse in your belly possible? And if it is possible, is it normal?
Turns out it might not be what you think after all. Biedebach tells Romper in an email that "it isn't usual to feel a pulse in your belly coming from the baby. Usually just movement is felt. If a pulse is felt in the belly during pregnancy it is probably from the baby laying on the aorta of the mom, which is in the upper part of the abdomen."
That doesn't sound great. The aorta is the main artery in the body, according to WebMD, so cutting off circulation to this blood vessel can't be a good idea. But why does this happen and what can you do about it? As an article on Healthline explained, some women may feel a pulsing in their belly during pregnancy and think it's the baby's heartbeat. The reason this happens is that "when you’re pregnant, the amount of blood circulating around your body dramatically increases. This means there’s more blood being pumped with each heartbeat, which can make the pulse in your abdominal aorta more noticeable." While this sounds reasonable and harmless enough, Biedebach says, "it is recommended to not sleep or lay on your back as your baby grows, as the extra weight can compress this vessel." Back sleeping during pregnancy can feel uncomfortable anyway, but what if this is the only way you're able to sleep?
Trying to sleep with a big belly can be a challenge. I remember when I was pregnant, I couldn't get enough pillows. I even ordered a memory foam mattress topper in an attempt to find comfort and relief from waking up throughout the night due to the unreal discomfort. Biedebach offered some practical advice for moms who have a hard time getting comfortable. She suggests, "re-position to one side to sleep. Putting a pillow behind your back can help if your body is used to sleeping that way." Another tip that helped ease the pregnancy pains in my hips, was putting a pillow between my legs when I lay to one side. The aches and pains did keep me up at night but having a bunch of pillows — lots and lots of pillows, in fact you can't have enough pillows — did help me find some relief.
It can be hard finding a comfortable position to sleep in during the later stages of pregnancy. But remember, back sleeping is not recommended when your baby grows big enough to cause you discomfort. Especially if you feeling a pulsing in your belly. Of course, if you have any questions, check with your doctor just to be sure.