Can you sleep on your stomach while pregnant?

In recent years it has always been recommended to pregnant women not to sleep on their backs, because this position, according to a study published in New Zealand in 2011 , could cause complications.

However, the position on the side was highly recommended , especially the left one.

According to a new study, how women sleep during the nine months, but particularly in the first two trimesters, doesn’t seem to matter all that much.

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The most recent study was published by Silver et al in September 2019 in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology   and showed that it is safe to sleep on your stomach (at least up to 30 weeks)

The researchers looked at data from 8,709 pregnant women who completed a sleep questionnaire before reaching 30 weeks of pregnancy . Of all these women, 1,903 women (representing 22% of the total) reported serious complications including dangerously high blood pressure , preterm births, low birth weight births, and perinatal deaths.

It was found that women who slept on their right side or on their backs (belly up) were no more likely to experience serious complications than women who slept on their left side.

These findings should therefore reassure pregnant women who are concerned about harming their baby by sleeping on their backs or shifting in this position during the night.

The women in the study who were most likely to have serious pregnancy complications were those who were overweight or obese, smokers, or women with high blood pressure or diabetes before pregnancy.

Neither the positions the women were in when they went to sleep or woke up, nor the positions they could move into during the night appeared to have an impact on the risk of complications.

The dangers of sleeping on your back

The advice to avoid lying on the back probably has its origin in a condition called ” supine hypotensive syndrome ” that some women occasionally experience during pregnancy. This syndrome usually occurs in the last trimester of pregnancy, although it can also occur before or during the postpartum period. It is characterized by a feeling of dizziness and nausea in a woman lying on her back, sometimes forcing her to switch positions from back to side . In very rare exceptions, more likely on the operating table and under anesthesia it is possible for the pregnant woman to lose consciousness.

Supine hypotension syndrome is also known as ” vena cava syndrome ” because it is probably caused by pressure from the uterus and fetus on a large blood vessel, the inferior vena cava, which runs behind the uterus, passes through the liver and goes to the heart. This compression of the vein, in turn, can lead to a reduction in blood flow to the heart and an eventual reduction in blood pressure (hypotension).

Compression of this large vein can occur when the woman lies directly on her back, but can also be seen in other positions, including sitting. Low blood pressure usually improves as you move from your back to your side. Since anesthesia can worsen the condition, pregnant women on the operating table are usually placed slightly tilted on their side as a precaution.

The importance of resting well

If you have trouble sleeping during pregnancy, it’s completely normal. Try using a pregnancy pillow and apply some useful tips to sleep well . Remember that sleep is very important at all times, especially during pregnancy. If you can’t sleep well at night, talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid to take lots of naps. After the birth of the baby you will have several occasions not to sleep, so now you should rest as much as possible.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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