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Positioning While Sleeping

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It's not easy to sleep soundly with your belly getting in the way. If you were a stomach sleeper before, now you'll have to switch sleep positions to accommodate your growing girth.

Best Sleep Positions

What's the safest sleep position during pregnancy? After your fifth month, your back is definitely not best. Sleeping on your back puts extra pressure on your aorta and inferior vena cava, the blood vessels that run behind your abdomen and carry blood back to your heart from your legs and feet. Pressure on these vessels can slow blood circulation to your body -- and your baby.

Not back or stomach. You might find it harder to breathe while lying on your back. And because your belly pushes down on your intestines when you lie on your back, this position can also lead to tummy troubles.

How about sleeping on your stomach? That's not a great idea, either. When you lie face down, your stomach presses on your expanding uterus -- not to mention your ballooning breasts.

Left is best. Right now, side sleeping is safest for your baby. Plus, it's more comfortable for you as your abdomen grows.

Is one side of the body better than the other for sleeping? Experts recommend lying on your left side. It improves circulation, giving nutrient-packed blood an easier route from your heart to the placenta to nourish your baby. Lying on the left side also keeps your expanding body weight from pushing down too hard on your liver. While either side is okay, left is best.

Positioning Tips

Here are a few other positioning tips to help you get more comfortable and protect your baby while you sleep during pregnancy:

  • For more belly and back support: Prop a pillow under your tummy or between your knees. Buy a special extra-long pregnancy pillow, or just use one you have in the closet at home. Positioning a pillow under your body can help keep you on your side, preventing you from rolling to your stomach or back.
  • For shortness of breath: Put a pillow under your side to raise your chest. 
  • For heartburn: Prop up the head of the bed a few inches with books or blocks. This helps keep acids down in your stomach, rather than burning their way up your esophagus.

Don't panic if you roll from side to front or back while you sleep. You're better off letting your body move where it's most comfortable than trying to wake yourself up every few minutes to stay on your side. You need as much sleep as you can get right now. You'll appreciate the extra rest once your baby starts waking you up for those midnight (and 1 a.m., and 2 a.m.) feedings.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on June 18, 2014

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