Sleeping positions during pregnancy
Expectant mothers will typically struggle to get into a comfortable sleeping position during pregnancy. Even in the wider population, physical discomfort is one of the top 5 most common physical factors to disrupt sleep (as found by the Great British Sleep Survey, 2012). In pregnant women, symptoms may be worsened by physical changes to the body as well as ailments like back pain and a frequent need to urinate.
Sleep problems are extremely common in women throughout pregnancy and may be prompted or exacerbated by discomfort and a preference for a particular sleeping position. Women who are used to sleeping on their stomachs, for example, may find it harder to get used to a new sleeping position in pregnancy.
Many women also worry about which sleep positions in pregnancy are the safest for the baby, particularly in the later stages. For this reason, health professionals often advise women to start getting used to sleeping on their side in early pregnancy to minimize any difficulty getting used to a new position later on.
Whilst evidence has so far failed to find a link between a mother’s sleeping position and harm to the baby (Stacey et al., 2011), health professionals will generally recommend sleeping on one’s side. This position has been found to be a good choice anatomically for both the mother and the baby as it ensures good blood flow (i.e. delivery of nutrients) to the baby and minimizes pressure on the mother’s internal organs.
Women may find the side-sleeping position easier to maintain with one pillow placed between their knees and a smaller pillow under their belly later in pregnancy. Ultimately it is however unlikely that a person will sleep in one position for the whole night. We are all prone to unconscious movement throughout the night so finding ‘the right” position when getting into bed shouldn’t be a cause of stress.
Stacey, T., Thompson, J.M.D., Mitchell, E.A., Ekeroma, A.J., Zuccollo, J.M., McCowan, L.M.E. (2011). Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study. British Medical Journal, 342:d3403