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If you’re a prominent back sleeper like most Americans, you may need to find a new sleeping position as your pregnancy progresses and your baby gets bigger.

Doctors recommend avoiding back sleeping through the night starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy because of the pressure it can put on your back and baby, paired with other symptoms like difficulty breathing.

We’ve made this guide to discuss what to watch out for when it comes to back sleeping, other sleeping positions to try, and some relaxation techniques to try that can help you sleep more comfortably in any position.

Is It Okay To Sleep On My Back During Pregnancy?

While the baby is still small and developing, there isn’t too much pressure being placed on your back, so it’s generally okay to sleep on your back for the majority of your pregnancy until the start of the third trimester.

By the third trimester, the baby has grown a lot, and this is when back sleeping is no longer recommended because it puts the full weight of the baby on your back.

On top of that, you’re still supporting your own weight, too, particularly your abdominal and back muscles, as well as your internal organs.

Besides all of this pressure being put on your back, it’s also being put on a major vein called the inferior vena cava that runs through your back, and carries blood from the lower body back up to the heart for reoxygenation.

Because of all of this, sleeping on your back late in your pregnancy can result in:

  • Backaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Decreased circulation
  • Sleep apnea

With everything said — don’t panic if you wake up and you’re on your back. If it’s the middle of the night, just change to a different position, and if it’s the morning, take your time getting out of bed and give your body time to stretch and wake up.

Stomach Sleeping During Pregnancy

Although this may seem surprising, sleeping on your stomach is actually safe to do — just keep in mind that you likely won’t find sleeping on your stomach comfortable as your belly grows.

When you are farther along in your pregnancy and your uterus and abdomen continue to expand, sleeping on your stomach will soon become uncomfortable.

Consider using a donut-shaped pillow that has a hole in the middle to help you sleep on your stomach if that’s still the most comfortable position even in the later trimesters.

During your pregnancy, the most important thing to do is rest and get a good night’s sleep, so it’s worth it to work with whatever tools you can to achieve that.

Side Sleeping During Pregnancy

Great news if you’re a side-sleeper — side sleeping is the preferred sleeping position for pregnant women, especially later on in pregnancy.

Traditionally, experts say that the best sleeping position for pregnant women is on their left side to prevent pressure from being put on the liver, which is on the right side of the body. As with the above, if you wake up on your right side, just readjust to help improve circulation and you’re good to go.

What If I Wake Up on My Back?

Everyone moves around while they sleep, pregnant or not, even if it’s just a couple minor adjustments through the night. Don’t stress if you do wake up on your back, especially early in the pregnancy.

Doctors only recommend not sleeping fully on your back after 28 weeks of pregnancy, so between early to mid-pregnancy, it’s completely safe to do, and after that, it’s not the worst thing that can happen either.

We repeat: don’t worry.

Can You Lay on Your Back During the Day While Pregnant?

Looking to do some stretching and wondering if it’s okay to do so? You can lie on your back for short periods of time here and there. But try keeping it no longer than five to ten minutes at a time.

Most healthy pregnant women can gently and comfortably lay on their back here and there without any issues, especially with the OK of their doctor.

Other Tips For Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, drinking and eating well throughout the day, consistent and light exercise for 30 minutes, or implementing meditation or relaxation techniques can all be beneficial ways to make you more relaxed at night and ready for sleep by bedtime.

Take note of your daily routine and see where you can change certain habits to make sure you are getting the rest you need at night. Aim for seven to ten hours of sleep each night.

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What Are the Benefits of Pregnancy Pillows?

If you don’t already have a pregnancy pillow, you may want to consider getting one, especially if you’re having trouble settling in for sleep. Pregnancy pillows are essentially U-shaped body pillows — you settle in right in the curve of the U to get support from all sides, no matter what stage of pregnancy you’re in.

Pregnancy pillows can offer a variety of benefits that can offer a better night’s sleep, especially as you progress into the third trimester where you’ll likely be most comfortable side sleeping.

Here are some ideas on how to use pregnancy pillows to alleviate discomfort:

  • Find a pillow that supports side sleepers by supporting proper alignment between your neck and the rest of your spine.
  • Keep your legs and knees bent, and put a portion of the pillow between your legs to relieve the stress on your back.
  • If you are experiencing heartburn during the night, you may want to try propping your upper body up with pillows.
  • At the end of your second trimester and into your third, you may start feeling like you can’t breathe properly. You can try lying on your side or slightly propping yourself up with pillows to help facilitate easier breathing.
  • You can also put a pillow beneath your abdomen to alleviate some pressure from your stomach. Placing one behind your back can give you extra support and alleviate lower back pain.

Conclusion

Remember, it’s okay to wake up in the third trimester of pregnancy and realize you’re sleeping on your back. While you should try to avoid being on your back for too long, the important part is making the conscious effort to turn back onto your side and get the much-needed rest you deserve.

For more helpful blogs to guide you through the FAQs of bringing a little one into the world, explore 8 Sheep’s blog here.

Sources:

Can I sleep on my back when I'm pregnant? | ACOG

Inferior vena cava: Anatomy and function | Kenhub

Preeclampsia - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

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