When you’re pregnant, you probably have a lot of questions about what you should and shouldn’t eat, or what you can and can’t do. Even a little uncertainty can be really stressful – especially in the first trimester, when your fluctuating hormones can drive anxiety levels through the roof.
One question we often hear is about the safe ways to sleep during the first trimester – particularly, about whether or not you’re allowed to lie on your stomach. Let’s run through the risks and facts about sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy.
Can I sleep on my stomach while pregnant?
First things first: no, you won’t squish the baby if you sleep on your stomach in the first trimester! In early pregnancy, the embryo (developing fetus) is still extremely tiny, and the placenta and amniotic fluid are protecting it. Laying on your stomach in this early stage of pregnancy won’t do your baby any harm, so go with what feels most comfortable for you. Whether you’re used to sleeping on your stomach, or your back, or your side, go for it – you do you!
However, by around Week 20, you probably won’t be asking this question. As your belly expands, you will probably notice it becoming too uncomfortable to sleep either directly on your stomach or face-up. Lying on your back in particular can leave you feeling dizzy. This is because your expanded belly puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels, reducing oxygen concentration in the bloodstream. As your belly grows, you’ll naturally find that you want to shift into a more comfortable position on your side.
Napping in the first trimester: Posture matters!
One thing to avoid during pregnancy is falling asleep in awkward sitting positions – particularly, slouching over a desk or table. Sitting still for long periods of time isn’t good for your circulation, and a hunched-over posture like this can reduce blood flow around your uterus. This leaves you feeling sick, tired and achy.
That said, the urge to nap at inopportune moments is a hallmark of early pregnancy. If you need to rest up at work, try not to snooze in your chair: see if you can find somewhere you can lie down and relax. You deserve it, mama!
Laying on stomach while pregnant in the later trimesters: Best avoided?
As your belly expands and it becomes difficult to lie face-up or face-down, it’s a good time to try the Sims position: lie on your side, hugging a pillow under your knee on one side, with one leg straight under the pillow and the other bent over the top of it.
There are also special long pillows designed for maximum comfort in this position, which you can buy from maternity suppliers. It’s thought that sleeping on your left-hand side avoids placing pressure on the thick blood vessel running down the right side of your abdomen. However, if it’s uncomfortable to lie in this position for a long time, it’s okay to switch sides when you need to.
As your uterus expands and puts pressure on surrounding blood vessels, you may experience some unpleasant sensations like low blood pressure, dizziness and lower back pain. The Sims position takes pressure off those blood vessels, and so it’s effective in helping your body relax. Even in the first trimester of pregnancy before your baby bump shows, the Sims position can help take the edge off morning sickness.
Sleeping on stomach is fine during early pregnancy
Especially in the rough times when you’re struggling with morning sickness or back pain, the best thing you can do for your baby is to take care of your own body. At the end of the day (if you’ll pardon the pun), the whole point of sleep is to rest your body, which gives your body the time it needs to repair and regenerate itself.
This is why it’s so important to get enough sleep, especially when you’re pregnant. Try not to stress too much about it: you’ll naturally find yourself settling into sleeping positions that suit your changing body.