Safe Sleep during Pregnancy: Answers to Your Most-Asked Questions

I am six-months-pregnant. I was told that I should sleep only on my side. Is this really true?


Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

There is a great deal of misinformation on this topic. I will answer some of the most common questions about safe sleep during pregnancy.

1. What position is best for sleep?
Expecting moms should sleep and rest in whatever position they are the most comfortable.

2. Are there exceptions to this rule?
There are a few exceptions: If a mother is suffering from a high risk complication such as preeclampsia, preterm labor or placental insufficiency, which necessitates partial of full bedrest, then the best position for her would be side-lying. In addition, during labor, uterine contractions can cause fluctuations in uterine-placental blood flow. During this time, it is best for the mother to lie on her side. When the heavy uterus rests against the aorta -- and blood flow may be already compromised -- lying on one's back is not recommended.

3. Is it safe to sleep on my back?
During regular sleep intervals, it is fine for a mother to lie on her back. During the night, people frequently shift their positions, so it is unlikely that a mother would sleep the entire night flat on her back. Her bladder often necessitates one or more trips to the bathroom anyway!
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4. How about sleeping on my belly?
Even sleeping on your abdomen is quite safe in pregnancy. At some point, this will become uncomfortable. You may need to support an upper leg with pillows and lie more on your side after the beginning of the second trimester.
Learn More.

5. Are these positions really safe for my unborn baby?
You should feel that any sleep position that is comfortable for you is fine during pregnancy. The human female body is uniquely prepared for such positions and they will not put the baby in jeopardy.

6. Will my baby be uncomfortable in certain positions?
Babies don't feel "discomfort" in their positions as we do. They are floating in a weightless environment and have ample room for stretching. So, don't worry about baby's comfort, but about your own.

7. How can I get comfortable and get the rest I need?
Your mattress should be firm enough to support your curves. It is helpful to have a pillow or two between the legs so that the upper leg is even with the hip bone. Mothers in the later stages of pregnancy need to shift positions more frequently so they do not get the same amount of sleep in eight hours that their partners do. You will also need rest periods and naps during the day to stay well rested during pregnancy.

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