One of the most common questions I get asked during pregnancy is what is the safest position to sleep.
Up until 22 weeks’ gestation a woman can sleep in whatever position she feels comfortable in, whether it’s on her tummy, back or side. After 22 weeks the uterus enlarges above the level of the bellybutton and lying completely flat on your back beyond this stage of pregnancy will squash the major veins running down the lower half of your body (inferior vena cava). This in turn impedes the blood supply back to your heart and will lower a mother’s blood pressure which can result in symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea. It can also compromise and affect the blood supply to the uterus and subsequently the placenta and baby.
It is recommended that women go to sleep on their left or right side beyond 22 weeks’ gestation. Some women find the use of a long body pillow a benefit to maintain this position.
Don’t be alarmed if you suddenly find yourself flat on your back in the middle of the night. The solution is just to roll over to one side or the other. Most women will do this as a reflex action in response to a lower blood pressure. If you have to sleep on your back because of ongoing pain or necessity, put a small pillow wedged under your right hip to give you a slight tilt and this will minimise any compression of the vena cava.