Sleeping on Back During Pregnancy – Is It Harmful?

Sleeping On Back During Pregnancy

Proper rest and a peaceful sleep at night are very important during pregnancy. But it may not be easy to find a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy, owing to the expanding tummy, especially during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. If sleeping on your back is your favourite position, you may have to give it up during pregnancy. Although, there is no scientific evidence available which suggests that sleeping on the back during pregnancy is harmful, it is advisable to avoid doing so, as it can be very uncomfortable particularly after the first trimester and it may also lead to certain health issues.

Is Sleeping on Your Back Safe While You Are Pregnant?

If you usually have been sleeping on your back, you may still be able to do so even until the end of the first trimester of your pregnancy. But as you advance in your pregnancy, you may have to switch to a more comfortable position. This is because, in the horizontal position, the expanding uterus can exert pressure on the vital veins carrying blood, thereby hindering the flow of blood, oxygen and essential nutrients to the growing foetus. The problem may further compound if the pregnant woman has diabetes or high blood pressure. But there is no reason to panic if you happen to find yourself sleeping on your back on waking up. Simply switch to a more safe and comfortable position like lying on your left side.

Things to Consider If You Are Sleeping on Your Back During Pregnancy

If you absolutely cannot do without sleeping on your back in pregnancy, then pillows can be a real lifesaver for you for making the back-sleep position comfortable.

  • You can take the help of pillows to suitably support yourself and make sleeping on your back more comfortable during pregnancy.
  • If you are troubled with indigestion at night, placing a pillow on the back of your head and upper part of the body may help.
  • To ease the pain in the back, you can try sliding a small pillow in the hollow of your back to support your back.
  • To tackle shortness of breath, you may like to consider sleeping in a slightly raised position, propped with pillows or alternatively consider using a recliner.
  • Try and avoid sleeping on your back for a long period of time particularly after the first trimester of the pregnancy. You may like to change positions at regular intervals.
  • Some pregnant women may feel comfortable tucking a slim pillow under their abdomen to provide some extra support.
  • If you must sleep on your back, you can fashion the pillows in a way that it enables you to rest against the back pillow and find a conciliation position between back sleeping and side sleeping.

Pregnant woman sleeping with body pillow

Why Should You Avoid Sleeping on Your Back?

Sleeping on your back especially during later stages of pregnancy can feel more and more uncomfortable because of the growing belly. Moreover, it may not be a good position for your baby. Effects of sleeping on the back while pregnant are listed below:

  • When a pregnant woman sleeps on her back, the weight of the enlarging uterus can pressurize the key blood vessels, adversely affecting the blood supply to the baby which means fewer nutrients and oxygen for the developing foetus.
  • The restricted blood flow may also lead to low blood pressure that may cause you to feel giddy and faint.
  • Sleeping on your back during pregnancy can result in digestive issues like indigestion or heartburn.
  • As the pregnancy progresses, some pregnant women may have trouble breathing properly or experience shortness of breath while sleeping on the back.
  • Sleeping on your back during pregnancy can strain the back muscles resulting in backaches.

Can Sleeping on the Back Increase the Risk of Stillbirth?

There may be a distant link between the lying down position of the mother and the danger of stillbirth. Sleeping on the back, for an extended period of time, may be harmful to the growth of the foetus and in case of difficult pregnancies, it can further distress the foetus resulting in stillbirth in some cases. According to some studies, the foetus tends to be in a less active state when pregnant women sleep on their back. This sleep-like condition is usually attributed to low oxygen supply due to the horizontal position. On the other hand, the foetus is likely to change into a more active mode when the position is switched to lying on the left side. Experts also studied the heart rate changeability of the foetus in both the positions and found that the heart rate tends to reduce in the lying on the back position. Reduced heart rate can result in complications for the foetus’ growth. But concrete scientific evidence is still lacking which can establish a direct correlation between sleeping on the back and the risk of stillbirth.

Safe & Comfortable Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

Sleeping comfortably during pregnancy can be a bit of a challenge, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. One of the most frequently asked questions by pregnant women is, ‘which side should I sleep on? Owing to the bodily changes during pregnancy, some sleeping positions may not be as comfortable as before. Experts generally don’t recommend lying on the back during pregnancy. It is important to bear in mind that it is quite common to have a few uncomfortable nights, as the pregnancy progresses. It is best to give your body suitable time to adjust to a new position.

Pregnant woman sleeping on left side

Some of the safe and comfortable sleeping positions during pregnancy can be:

  • Sleeping on your left side, during all phases of pregnancy, is usually considered to be the best and safest sleeping position as it doesn’t interfere with the blood circulation and helps drive in more nutrients to the baby.
  • When sleeping on the side, it may feel comfortable if you bend the knees and legs. This helps in keeping unnecessary pressure off the heart.
  • After the first trimester, pregnant women may find placing a pillow under their belly helpful while lying on their side in supporting the weight of their expanding tummy. While sleeping on the side, putting a sturdy pillow underneath the top leg can aid in properly aligning the body and easing pressure off the lower leg and back.
  • In the side position, placing a pillow at the back and in the front can enable you to bend forward or backwards comfortably.
  • Pregnant women can try resting one leg over the other leg and tucking a thin pillow between the legs for support.
  • You can also look for a pillow which is shaped like a wedge or an all-around body pillow, shaped like the letter C, for full support to the body.
  • If you prefer sleeping on the stomach, it may be fine but only during the first trimester. Thereafter, the growing belly may not allow you to sleep comfortably in this position.

During pregnancy, it is important to choose sleeping positions which are not only comfortable but also beneficial for the baby’s health. While some pregnant women may prefer sleeping on the back even during pregnancy, it is advisable to try and practice sleeping on the left side instead. Pregnant women may also consult a doctor to discuss their options for comfortable sleeping positions during pregnancy.

Also Read: Sleeping on Stomach During Pregnancy – Is It Dangerous?