Sleeping on Your Back During the Third Trimester

Pregnant woman on her back

Expectant mothers want to do everything they can to ensure a healthy pregnancy, so it's no surprise that they often find themselves wondering if sleeping on back during third trimester is safe.

Sleeping on Back During Third Trimester

There are several different reasons why many healthcare providers tell women to avoid sleeping on their back while pregnant. For example:

  • Sleeping on your back causes the weight of your uterus to press on the spine, back muscles, intestines, and major blood vessels. This can lead to muscle aches and impaired circulation.
  • Sleeping on your back can aggravate hemorrhoids caused by pregnancy.
  • Some people report headaches after waking up from sleeping on their back.
  • Back sleeping makes blood pressure drop for some women, causing feelings of dizziness.
  • Back sleeping can cause snoring.
  • In overweight women, back sleeping can cause problems with sleep apnea.

Although these concerns are present throughout your pregnancy, the issue becomes more pronounced during the third trimester because of the baby's advanced development and the extra weight you've gained to accommodate the pregnancy. Fortunately, sleeping on your back appears to be the least common sleeping position. Multiple surveys have been conducted estimating that only about 10 percent of people say their preferred sleeping position is flat on their back. In comparison, over 50 percent of people say they prefer to sleep on their side.

Is it a Cause for Concern?

Although experts do recommend that you avoid sleeping on back during third trimester, it's not necessarily a problem if you find yourself unable to fall asleep unless you're lying on your back. Most people change positions quite often during their sleep and it's highly unlikely you'd spend the whole night sleeping on your back. Also, during the third trimester, the majority of women awaken two or three times during the night to use the restroom. This means you're not spending enough time sleeping on your back to cause any risk.

If you must sleep on your back, however, it's best to place a pillow under your knees. This will help maintain the normal curve of your lower back and reduce excess pressure. A rolled towel placed under the small of the back is also beneficial as an added support. Special pregnancy body pillows can be purchased, too, if desired.

Best Sleeping Position for Pregnancy

If possible, the best position for sleeping during the third trimester is lying on your left side. This helps your kidneys eliminate waste products from your body, thus reducing the swelling you may be experiencing in your hands and feet. Sleeping on your left side also benefits your baby by improving the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta.

Tips for Getting a Good Night's Sleep

Because of the various hormonal changes in pregnancy and the increased pressure on your bladder, it's common to have trouble sleeping during the third trimester. Here are a few natural sleep strategies to help you get the rest you need:

  • Sleeping on a firm mattress is generally the most comfortable.
  • Try sleeping with a pillow or two between your legs so your upper leg is even with your hip bone.
  • Limit liquid intake for an hour or two before bed to help minimize nighttime trips to the restroom.
  • Reading in bed is a good way to unwind, but you will want to avoid anything too suspenseful or anxiety inducing. Save the parenting books and thrillers for your daytime hours and curl up with a nice romance novel or your favorite fashion magazine before bed.
  • Try to find time for a short nap or two during the day. Between shifting positions and waking up to use the restroom, you're probably not getting a full eight hours of sleep. Short naps can help keep your energy levels up.

Visit LoveToKnow Sleep for more tips on how to ensure a good night's sleep.

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Sleeping on Your Back During the Third Trimester