The Best Sleeping Positions During and After Pregnancy

Sleeping can be rather difficult when you’re pregnant, so you may find you’ll need to change a few of your regular sleeping positions once you start carrying a baby. There are a number of reasons for this discomfort, including increased abdomen size, back pain, heartburn, and shortness of breath.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you get a good night’s rest.​

​Your Pillow Is Your Friend

Sleeping on your side, or “SOS”, is by far the best position for you during pregnancy. It’s even better if you sleep on your left side, as it helps with the nutrients and blood that travel to your placenta and baby. It also helps keep you from pushing too hard down on your liver as your body weight increases.

To be more comfortable in this position, keep your legs and knees bent and add a pillow. You can use a small cushion, or opt for a wedge-shaped pillow, which will also come in handy when you’ll be nursing.

If you have back pain, place a pillow under your abdomen. Note that sometimes this position can cause heartburn, in which case it’s recommended to use pillows to prop up your upper body as well.

If you are experiencing shortness of breath, place a pillow under your side to help raise your chest. At first it might be difficult to sleep like this if you’re used to other positions, but try it out and experiment with your pillows until you find a formula that’s comfortable.

Your symptoms and discomforts will evolve from the first to third trimester, and so will you sleeping patterns. Purchasing a body pillow early on in your pregnancy can be very useful in helping you find the most comfortable sleeping position.

Sleeping Positions to Avoid

There are a few sleeping positions you should avoid during pregnancy. For example, sleeping on your back can give you back aches, breathing problems, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure, and harm your digestive system. Plus, it can also decrease circulation to your baby as your abdomen is resting on your intestines and the major blood vessels in that area.

One of the main vessels is the inferior vena cava (IVC), which carries blood from the lower to the middle body and to the heart. When on your back, you constrict this vessel and your aorta, which also constricts blood flow to the placenta. This can actually cause you to wake up with your heart racing and short of breath.

If you’re unable to switch to sleeping on your side after a lifetime of sleeping on your back, then try sleeping on your back at a 45 degree angle, propped up on some pillows.

There are challenges to sleeping on your stomach, especially later in your pregnancy once your stomach has grown. For some, sleeping on their stomach early in pregnancy may not be comfortable due to breast sensitivity or tenderness.

Generally, you can sleep on your stomach for the first 16 to 18 weeks of your pregnancy, depending on how big your belly is getting. Not only will sleeping on your stomach grow increasingly uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses, but doing so comes with the same safety risks as sleeping on your back.

When you sleep face down it can still cause your stomach to move inside, press against the IVC, and restrict blood flow, and sleeping on your right side still compresses the IVC, so your left side is still the best. Using your pregnancy pillow to better prop up your uterus also helps.

How to Sleep After Giving Birth

After giving birth you should be able to sleep in any position, although some moms find that sleeping on their stomachs puts pressure on their breasts and reduces their milk supply when breastfeeding.

For new moms worried about getting their pre-pregnancy body back, sleeping on your stomach while breastfeeding has been linked to women developing saggy breasts after pregnancy. If you’ve had a c-section or a complicated delivery, it’s also important to avoid sleeping on your stomach to ensure a speedy recovery.

Some new moms also experience breathing problems and obstructive sleep apnea due to elevated hormone levels. The trick to relieving these postpartum breathing problems and getting better sleep is to prop up the upper body, just as was done during pregnancy.

The bottom line? Get comfortable -- you’ll be needing all the rest you can get!

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