Why Pregnant Women Should Sleep On Their Left Side

sleep left side

Everyone has their favorite sleep position. Some people like sleeping on their stomach. Some like sleeping on their back. Some change positions a dozen times a night. But, when it comes to a good night of sleep, we like what we like.

Now that you are pregnant, you have probably been told to sleep on your left side, whether you like it or not.

But this is not an absolute. Sleeping on either your right side or your left side is better than sleeping while lying on your back. And even sleeping on your back occasionally will not cause something horrible to you or your baby.

The Anatomy of Lying Down While Pregnant

The reason many experts give for telling you to lie on your left side is anatomical. Your growing uterus starts to become bigger and heavier in the second trimester. By the end of your pregnancy, you have a big roundish weight in your abdomen that is pushing some organs out of the way and is putting weight on others.

When you lie on your back, your uterus is resting on one of the biggest veins in your body, the inferior vena cava, which returns blood from your lower abdomen and legs back to your heart. This weight on the vena cava can impede blood circulation in your body, but it won’t cut it off completely.

Although you may be able to sleep on your stomach for the first few weeks of your pregnancy, this will become uncomfortable as your pregnancy progresses. Eventually, you’ll feel like you’ve draped yourself over a bowling ball. It is not physically impossible to sleep on your stomach in your eighth or ninth month, but good luck trying it.

If you are lying on your right side, your uterus will also be resting against part of your liver, which is why laying on your left side is usually recommended. But either side is generally thought to be OK for sleeping since it is better than sleeping on your back.

Find What Works for You

The key here is to find what works best for you. Getting a good night’s sleep during the last months of pregnancy is hard enough without worrying yourself about your sleeping position. If you sleep better on your right side, do it.

Everyone changes position a few times during the night. You may wake up and find that you have been sleeping on your back for a while. Don’t worry about it.

In general, try to sleep on your left side. Start sleeping on your left side early in your pregnancy so that you can get used to it. Curl up a bit and keep your knees and hips bent a bit so that you are more likely to stay on your side. Use pillows to help make yourself comfortable. Put a pillow between your knees or use one of those long body pillows. You might try putting a pillow behind your back to keep yourself on your side. You can also buy a wedge-shaped pillow to prop your abdomen up. Some women find that they sleep better in a recliner chair than in a bed during their ninth month. Go with what works for you.

If you find that you absolutely cannot sleep well unless you are on your back, tell your obstetrician or midwife. They may advise you that it is better to get some sleep rather than worry about it, but just let them know and ask for their advice.

To learn more about sleep and pregnancy, click here.

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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