If you’re a natural stomach sleeper, you may find it difficult to transition to side sleeping or even back sleeping when you’re carrying a little one in your belly.
But, outside of comfort and personal preference — is it actually bad to sleep on your stomach while you’re pregnant?
Here at 8 Sheep, we’ve created a guide with some tips for mothers-to-be who are also natural belly sleepers. We’ll cover what you need to know, including whether or not you can sleep on your stomach, how long you can sleep on your stomach, and some other sleep positions to consider as you progress through your pregnancy.
Finding a comfortable sleep position can be challenging with your growing baby bump, and not every position will work for you. Hopefully this article helps you find the optimal sleeping position for you to get comfortable!
The short answer is yes, during the earlier stages of pregnancy.
Sleeping on your stomach is generally very safe early in your pregnancy (e.g. during the first trimester and beginning of the second trimester), but it may become more difficult and very uncomfortable the farther along you are and your abdomen grows rounder.
If you’re still in the first few months of pregnancy and you find sleeping on your stomach is comfortable and gets you the best night’s rest, then go for it! But as your pregnancy progresses, you most likely won’t find it as comfortable anymore, and you may find that sleeping on your side is the new way to go.
Michael Kasovick, MD, recommends that women around 20 weeks of pregnancy start to transition to lying on their sides as their belly begins to really expand. Before then, you can sleep in any position you find comfortable.
Around the third trimester is when sleeping positions will really make a difference in how comfortable you are when you sleep. While side sleeping is recommended and stomach sleeping just isn’t really all that comfortable, back sleeping is the only position that should be avoided entirely, starting in your third trimester.
Although it may be surprising since your back is opposite your baby bump, doctors do not recommend sleeping on your back, especially later in your pregnancy.
Lying on your back is not recommended because the weight of the growing baby can put heavy pressure on a major vein called the inferior vena cava (IVC), which runs parallel to your spine on the right side. It has the important job of returning blood from your lower body to your heart for reoxygenation, and increased pressure from the weight of your baby can disrupt that important process.
When you lay on your back, you may also feel increased pressure on your actual back muscles, too, which can both be uncomfortable while trying to sleep, and cause muscle aches by the time you wake up.
Here are some of the other possible symptoms that may arise if you sleep on your back during the third trimester:
While these symptoms have the potential to result in pregnancy complications before or during delivery, the risk can be easily mitigated as long as you make a conscious effort to avoid back sleeping.
If you wake up and find you’ve slept on your back, don’t worry — just readjust to a side sleeping position and get back to sleep. If you’re getting up for the day, do so slowly, and try to gently stretch your back and legs to help boost circulation before you actually get up and moving.
And always remember: your OB-GYN is there to guide you whenever you have questions. Don’t be afraid to voice any concerns you may have, especially if you find you’re waking up on your back every morning even though you make an effort to sleep on your side.
If you find yourself prone to sleeping on your stomach, you may find that using a stomach sleeping pillow with an area cut out for your belly can make it more comfortable.
Side sleeping is also okay — one study shows that sleeping on either side during pregnancy is safe. That said, you’ll see a lot of recommendations for sleeping on your left side, especially in later parts of pregnancy, because it can help maintain good blood flow.
When you ensure the best blood flow to your uterus and the rest of your body, you’re ensuring that nutrients are going where they’re most needed. Good circulation also helps to prevent swelling, varicose veins, and even hemorrhoids.
Laying on your left side also alleviates some pressure from being put on the IVC since that vein runs along the right side of your spine to bring deoxygenated blood back to your heart for reoxygenation.
Here are some sleeping position ideas for sleeping on your left side:
When you’re pregnant and struggling with sleep, investing in a pregnancy pillow could be your ticket back to Dreamland.
Pregnancy pillows are dense, U-shaped pillows that provide support on all sides of your body as you lie in the middle of the U. Because of the shape, pregnancy pillows can support your back, serve as in-between support for your knees/legs, and support your head, all in one.
When you’re pregnant, the last thing you want is to have trouble sleeping when your body is already going through so many changes.
If you’re looking for other ways to have a more restful sleep beyond just sleeping positions, here are some other tips that should help:
At 8 Sheep, we know how many changes you and your body are going through, and the last thing you need is to struggle to sleep comfortably, then wonder whether or not that comfy position you’ve finally found is safe for you and your little one.
While it’s not inherently bad to sleep on your stomach, it just won’t be comfortable, and you’ll find that side sleeping with a pregnancy pillow for support will be your best bet for a good night’s rest that keeps your blood flowing and pressure to a minimum.
The one position that should be avoided during later pregnancy is back sleeping — this puts a lot of pressure on an important vein, on your back muscles, and just on your body in general. Avoid this as much as you can, and if you find that you’ve woken up on your back, just readjust to a safer position.
If you’re a dedicated stomach sleeper and you can’t seem to adjust, or if you think a lack of sleep is becoming an issue, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider so they can work with you on possible solutions that can help you get a good night’s rest!