As the size of your fetus – and your belly – grows, it can become increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Shifting around in bed becomes a tricky endeavor. Plus, if you’ve always been a back or stomach sleeper, you might have trouble getting used to sleeping on your side (as doctors recommend).
Early in your pregnancy, try to get into the habit of sleeping on your side. Lying on your side with your knees bent is likely to be the most comfortable position as your pregnancy progresses. It also makes your heart’s job easier because it keeps the baby’s weight from applying pressure to the large vein (called the inferior vena cava) that carries blood back to the heart from your feet and legs.
Some doctors specifically recommend that pregnant women sleep on the left side. Because your liver is on the right side of your abdomen, lying on your left side helps keep the uterus off that large organ.
Sleeping on the left side also improves circulation to the heart and allows for the best blood flow to the fetus, uterus and kidneys. Ask what your doctor recommends — in most cases, lying on either side should do the trick and help take some pressure off your back.
But don’t drive yourself crazy worrying that you might roll over onto your back during the night. Shifting positions is a natural part of sleeping that you can’t control. Most likely, during the third trimester of your pregnancy, your body won’t shift into the back-sleeping position anyway because it will be too uncomfortable.
If you do shift onto your back and the baby’s weight presses on your inferior vena cava, the discomfort will probably wake you up. See what your doctor recommends about this. He or she may suggest that you use a pillow to keep yourself propped up on one side.
Try experimenting with pillows to discover a comfortable sleeping position. Some women find that it helps to place a pillow under their abdomen or between their legs.
Also, using a bunched-up pillow or rolled-up blanket at the small of your back may help to relieve some pressure. In fact, you’ll see many “pregnancy pillows” on the market. If you’re thinking about buying one, talk with your doctor first about which might work for you.
© 2014. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth®. Used under license.