Sleeping on the Stomach during Pregnancy – Is It Harmful?

Pregnant woman sleeping on stomach

Sleep is precious to us all and most doctors agree that an average human being needs about eight hours of sleep to be active. Unfortunately, things get a little complicated when you get pregnant. The constant feeling of nausea, the urge to urinate every few hours and morning sickness can cut your sleep short. But what about your sleep position? Have you ever wondered what the best way to sleep is?

Is It Safe to Sleep on the Stomach When Pregnant?

Sleeping on your stomach during the initial phase of pregnancy may not be a good option as it can cause distress to both the mother as well as the child.

Sleeping on Tummy During Pregnancy

1. First Trimester

Sleeping on stomach during early pregnancy is unlikely to cause any complications. The uterus is safely nestled behind the pubic bone which prevents any external pressure from harming the fetus.

2. Second Trimester

While this time is known as the ‘honeymoon period’, there remain a few lingering pregnancy symptoms one of which is heartburn. This is caused due to the uterus pushing against the digestive organs. Sleeping on your belly adds additional pressure to these organs, and increases your risk of heartburn.

3. Third Trimester

During this time, the fetus is significantly bigger before and will continue to grow at a rapid pace. Lying down on your stomach will then put pressure on the vena cava, the main vein that pumps blood from the heart to the legs. This can wreak havoc on blood circulation in general and reduce the supply of nutrients to the baby.

Sleeping Positions in Pregnancy

1. Best Sleeping Position

Lying on the sides is one of the best sleeping positions during pregnancy as it improves the circulation of blood and even helps in the kidney productivity. Many experts recommend sleeping on the left side as it promotes proper nutrition of the baby.

Pregnant woman sleeping on left side

2. Worst Sleeping Position

When you lie on your back while pregnant, the uterus puts a lot of pressure on the spine. As the uterus presses against it, it not only leads to back pain and haemorrhoids but also obstructs blood flow. This affects the nutrition of the baby and at the same time causes changes in your blood pressure leading to dizziness.

Pregnant woman sleeping on back

Disadvantages of Sleeping on the Stomach

  • It can reduce the blood flow to the placenta leading to nutritional problems for the baby.
  • It can put pressure on the back leading to a backache.
  • It can put pressure on the breasts which are already tender and sore due to hormonal changes.
  • It can be physically difficult towards the end of the pregnancy.

Tips for Better Sleep

While sleeping on your belly during pregnancy might not be an option, here are some tips you could use instead to get some sound sleep.

1. Diet

A diet can go a long way in helping you to fall off to sleep. Avoid having spicy and acidic foods as it can cause heartburn which can make it difficult to sleep. Many recommend eating a diet that is high in protein shortly before sleeping. This helps avoid a low blood sugar situation that wakes you up in the middle of the night.

2. Meditation

Anxiety and stress are one of the biggest sleep busters during pregnancy. Meditation is a form of relaxation that trains the brain to divert its focus to the present and not worry about events of the past/future. One can use some of the pranayama breathing methods that are specially designed for pregnant mothers known as “pregnancy yoga”.

3. Exercise

Regular exercise helps lower some of the symptoms associated with pregnancy such as hot flashes which can make sleeping difficult. However, there are two points to remember while working out. First, avoid any kind of intense exercising, this includes vigorous aerobics and weightlifting. Fatigue and dizziness are some of the symptoms experienced during pregnancy, and heavy exercise will only contribute to this. Second, exercises could be done sometime during the day as exercises in the evening and night reduce sleep quality.

4. Pillows

Pillows are a pregnant woman’s best friend as they’re always close-by and offer support, literally. You can either stack up some pillows from home or purchase specially designed maternity pillows. They come in varying shapes and make sleeping on your sides comfortable. While some come in the shape of a wedge that gives support to the whole body, there are others that are oval and give support to the stomach.

Pregnant woman sleeping on maternity pillow

5. Scheduled Sleep

Never underestimate the power of a timetable. Setting up a routine gives the brain psychological triggers to induce a state of sleepiness. Many follow a routine where they brush their teeth, put on some comfortable clothes and drink some warm milk. As this routine is performed every day, the brain sees these actions as triggers and you’ll find yourself asleep in no time.

6. Clothing

Invest your money in comfortable sleepwear as it can make a big difference. Tight fitting clothes and synthetic fabrics need to be stashed away for good and replaced with loose cotton clothes. This is because cotton allows for good ventilation and becomes handy, especially while dealing with hot flashes.

7. Drinking

As the uterus can put pressure on the bladder, you might not able to hold it in like you used to. Avoid drinking water after the evening and drink early on during the day to not strain the bladder at night.

There may be many of you who have been accustomed to sleep on your belly for your whole lives. However, this is just a temporary requirement which will benefit you and your baby. Thankfully, there are many options available such as maternity pillows that can help you get your well-deserved rest.

Also Read: How Pregnancy Affects Your Sleep