Getting any kind of rest while you are pregnant can be hard. Finding a comfortable position just to sit in can be challenging, but finding a good position to sleep in is even tougher. Many pregnant women toss and turn through the night, armed with an arsenal of pillows, just trying to find the best position to fall asleep. If you're trying to find a better position to sleep in, you may wonder, is it dangerous to sleep on your back while pregnant?
Why is it so hard to sleep during pregnancy, anyway? Shouldn't you be catching as many Zs as you can before your baby comes? According to the American Pregnancy Association, your growing belly, insomnia, acid reflux, and the pain and pressure in your back, along with shortness of breath, can contribute to sleep challenges. So sleep can become hard to get when you're constantly trying to find a comfortable position that accommodates your belly, back pain, and any of the other pregnancy related issues.
As if comfort wasn't enough of an issue, you have to worry about safety, too. In an interview with Romper, Dr. Eva Martin, CEO of Elm Tree Medical, Inc., says that you should avoid sleeping on your back during pregnancy. "The reason we worry about lying flat on your back during pregnancy," Martin says, "is that the weight of the baby can compress a major blood vessel called the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC)."
She explains that the IVC is responsible for returning blood to your heart, and compressing it can cause a shift in circulation. "If the IVC can't return blood to your heart, then the heart won't have sufficient blood to pump back out to the body and the baby," Martin says.
So what's the best sleep position during pregnancy? The American Pregnancy Association (APA) suggested that sleeping on your side, with a pillow between your legs, is the most ideal position to sleep in. The APA further noted that sleeping on your left side is even better, because it can increase the supply of nutrients and blood that go to the placenta and to your baby.
If you're most comfortable sleeping on your back, Martin says that the safest way to try that position is to place a cushion, pillow, or towel under the right side of your back so that you are tilted towards the left. "This leftwards tilt should shift your weight away from the IVC," she adds.
So if you're trying to get some sleep, just remember to try sleeping on your sides, preferably your left. And if you need to sleep on your back, make sure to prop up your back, so that your body is tilted. Either way, get as many of those precious Zs as you can, because once your baby arrives, sleep can become even more elusive.