The Importance of Sleeping on the Side During Pregnancy
Sleeping on the side allows mums to avoid breathlessness while lying down which can be harmful to her and her baby.
Pregnancy is a time where you will experience lots of various changes in your body, both mentally and physically.
As your pregnancy progresses and the baby grows, the increase in tummy size will essentially lead to 2 main things: first, your breathing muscle also known as your diaphragm will get stretched due to the growing baby. Second, the mother’s blood vessels can also get compressed as the baby continues to grow inside her.
As we aim to promote healthy pregnancies, let’s talk more about how sleeping on the side is important to help mums ensure safe and healthy pregnancies.
A pregnant woman may experience breathlessness while lying on her back because the entire weight of the growing uterus and baby rests on the back in this position. This means the mum’s intestines and the main vein that carries blood back to the heart from your lower body will be under pressure.
Prolonged sleeping on the back, especially in the late stages of ate in pregnancy, can lead to unwanted complications to the baby’s development in the tummy especially because of the less-than-optimal circulation reduces blood flow to the foetus, giving the baby less oxygen and nutrients.
As such, it is recommended for pregnant women, especially those in their third trimesters, to sleep on their left side.
Sleeping on the side
Sleeping on the left side will help to prevent this compression of the blood vessel which then allows for good blood flow from the mother to the baby. Positioning on the left side of the body allows for optimal blood flow from the inferior vena cava (IVC), which is a large vein that runs parallel to the mum’s spine on the right side. This then carries blood to the mum’s heart and, in turn, to her baby.
To ensure sleeping on the side, the pregnant mum can start by placing a pillow or bolster behind her back side-sleeping.
If the mum finds this difficult or simply can’t get used to sleeping on the side, using pillows to prop the upper body at a 45-degree angle may help. This way, the mum is not flat on her back and is able to take the compression off the IVC.
Alternatively, elevating the head of the bed a couple of inches with books or blocks can also help.
Note: If you do happen to wake up and find yourself sleeping on your back, fret not. (Read: Do not worry!). Simply readjust your position and put the pillow behind your back and turn back on to your left side to sleep.
Dr Michelle Chia is the resident doctor at DTAP Clinic DUO Galleria, specialising in women’s health. She has extensive experience in managing a variety of women’s health, general gynaecology issues and antenatal care for pregnancy.