Can I Sleep on My Stomach While Pregnant?

Safe sleeping positions during pregnancy can be an anxiety trigger point. Those who find comfort in sleeping on their stomachs may experience difficulty sleeping while pregnant. Let's explore the safety of stomach sleeping and the best sleeping positions while pregnant.

Key takeaways:

Can you sleep on your stomach while pregnant?

Yes, you can sleep on your stomach while pregnant until your growing belly gets big enough that this position becomes very uncomfortable. At around 12 weeks of pregnancy, perhaps earlier for those with multiple children, the uterus begins to rise out of the pelvis.

It is around this time that stomach sleep may start to become uncomfortable. Those experiencing multiple gestation pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.) may find the need to try a different sleeping position sooner than those pregnant with a singleton baby.

Will stomach sleeping hurt the baby?

No, sleeping on your stomach will not hurt your baby. Stomach sleep will continue to be the most comfortable during the first trimester. During this time, your growing uterus remains protected within your pelvis. Beyond the first trimester, as your belly grows, your baby will remain protected within your uterus, surrounded by amniotic fluid. This amniotic fluid acts as a shock absorber.

Abdominal trauma while pregnant

Significant pressure or force on a pregnant belly can have consequences. However, these types of traumatic injuries are often the result of motor vehicle accidents, significant falls, and assaults. Negative outcomes of traumatic abdominal injury while pregnant include:

  • Placental abruption. Placenta pulls away from the wall of the uterus resulting in severe bleeding.
  • Preterm labor and delivery. Labor and begins earlier than the due date.
  • Uterine rupture. The uterus is punctured or ruptured.
  • Pelvic fracture. The pelvis is damaged due to impact pressure.

Can you sleep on your back while pregnant?

Back sleep is considered the riskiest sleep position while pregnant, but study results are conflicting. Recent studies have suggested that sleeping on your back is associated with a 2.3 times greater risk of stillbirth — a baby who dies before birth — after 28 weeks of pregnancy. In contrast, other studies have found no risk of stillbirth and back sleep.

As pregnancy progresses, the expanding uterus becomes heavy with a developing baby, a growing placenta, amniotic fluid, and blood. When you lay on your back, the entire weight of your pregnant uterus can rest on major blood vessels. These blood vessels take blood to your uterus, your developing baby, and your own body. Compressing these vessels will restrict blood flow and oxygen to the baby, which may have consequences. Additionally, you may feel dizzy or lightheaded.

Back sleep in the third trimester of pregnancy is also associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Do your best to avoid back sleeping in your second and third trimesters as pregnancy dramatically impacts your physical body, restricts blood flow, and can create difficulties breathing.

What is the best pregnancy sleeping position?

The ultimate sleeping position during pregnancy is on your side, specifically, your left side. Side sleep allows for unlimited restriction of blood flow-oxygen and nutrients between your body and your baby. Sleeping on your side, especially beyond 28 weeks gestation, is the general recommendation by most obstetricians and midwives.

Pregnancy pillows

The pregnancy pillow market has exploded as pregnant parents chase comfortable sleep. Pregnancy pillows aid in helpful positioning and promote comfort while sleeping and growing a baby. There are many types of pregnancy pillow including:

  • U-Shaped pillow. A pillow that is shaped like a giant "U" which you can position around yourself and get greater support for your hips, legs and bump.
  • C-Shaped pillow. A pillow that is shaped like a giant "C" which you place behind you, creating extra support for your hips and lower back.
  • The wedge. This is a firm, wedge-shaped pillow that you can slide underneath your hips and tummy.

A special pad is not a “must-have” pregnancy item but can significantly increase your sleep quality and safety while pregnant. They can help reduce aches and pains, help keep your body in pregnancy-recommended sleeping positions during the night and improve sleep.

Sleeping positions during pregnancy are generally guided by individual comfort and medical recommendations. Do not hesitate to speak with your obstetrician or midwife about any worries or concerns you have regarding sleep. Adequate and comfortable sleep is vital for you and your growing baby.

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