Can I Sleep on My Back While Pregnant?

As a registered nurse, I often get asked about the best sleeping positions during pregnancy. I once had an expecting mother joke that she’d need to Velcro herself to the bed to stay on her side all night.

Hopefully, after reading this, you won't have to worry about that. Let’s dive into the details and clear up any confusion about sleeping positions—no Velcro needed.

Sleeping on your back during the second and third trimesters is generally not recommended due to the risk of vena cava compression, which can reduce blood flow to your baby. Side sleeping, especially on the left side, is the safest option because it enhances blood flow to the placenta, providing optimal oxygen and nutrients to the baby.

Why Is Sleeping Position Important During Pregnancy? 

pregnant and smiling woman comfortably laying on her side with a maternity pillow

Understanding the importance of sleeping positions during pregnancy is crucial for both maternal and foetal health. Sleeping on your back while pregnant can cause your vena cava (a large vein that carries blood from the lower body to the heart) to compress, reducing blood flow to your bub and causing dizziness, shortness of breath, and low blood pressure. 

Proper sleeping positions can alleviate common pregnancy symptoms like back pain and digestive issues and have a significant impact on your bub’s health. Studies show that side sleeping, particularly on the left side, improves blood flow to the placenta. Additionally, going to sleep on your side from 28 weeks can halve the risk of stillbirth compared to back sleeping.

Finding a comfortable position also helps improve the quality of sleep, which is vital during pregnancy. Sleep plays a major role in memory, learning, appetite, mood, and decision-making—all important factors when creating new life. 

Chronic sleep deprivation can impact the immune system, increasing the risk of complications for both mother and baby. Quality sleep is essential for coping with the physical and emotional changes that occur during pregnancy.

Is It Safe to Sleep on My Back During Early Pregnancy? 

Woman sleeping on side with pregnancy pillow

During the first trimester, sleeping on your back is generally safe. The uterus is still relatively small, and there's minimal risk of compressing major blood vessels. 

However, as the pregnancy progresses and the uterus grows, it’s advisable to start training yourself to sleep on your side. This preparation will make the transition easier as you move into the second and third trimesters.

Can Pregnant Women Sleep on Their Backs in the Second and Third Trimesters? 

By the second trimester, the weight of the uterus can compress the inferior vena cava, a major vein that returns blood from the lower body to the heart, when sleeping on your back. This can reduce blood flow to the placenta and cause dizziness or other complications. 

Medical professionals generally recommend avoiding back sleeping during these later stages of pregnancy to prevent these risks.

Can I Sleep on My Back While Pregnant if Propped Up? 

Sleeping propped up with pillows can help mitigate some of the risks associated with back sleeping. Elevating the upper body reduces the pressure on the inferior vena cava and can help maintain better blood flow.

However, it's still advisable to primarily sleep on your side for optimal safety and comfort.

Can I Lay on My Back with My Legs Up While Pregnant? 

While it might seem comfortable, lying on your back with your legs up can still exert pressure on the vena cava.

If you need to elevate your legs to reduce swelling, try doing so while lying on your side or with your legs supported by pillows while keeping your upper body slightly elevated.

Can I Lay on My Back on the Couch While Pregnant? 

Back sleeping on the couch poses the same risks as in bed. It’s best to use cushions or pillows to support a side-sleeping position while lounging.

This will ensure both comfort and safety for you and your bub.

What Week Should I Stop Sleeping on My Back?

It's recommended to start avoiding back sleeping by the second trimester. Around the 20-week mark, the uterus has grown enough to potentially compress the vena cava, so it's a good time to transition to side sleeping if you haven’t already.

What Is the Best Sleeping Position During Pregnancy?  

woman laying on her side with maternity pillow while pregnant holding her belly

Side Sleeping (Left Side)

  • Best Position: Enhances blood flow to the placenta, providing optimal oxygen and nutrients. Reduces the risk of complications.
  • Benefits: Alleviates pressure on internal organs, supports kidney function, and reduces swelling.

Side Sleeping (Right Side)

  • Good Position: Still beneficial, but slightly less optimal than the left side.
  • Benefits: Better than back or stomach sleeping, helps with blood flow and reduces pressure on the uterus.

Back Sleeping

Stomach Sleeping

  • Not Practical in Later Stages: Impractical and uncomfortable as the belly grows.
  • Risks: Can put pressure on your bub and make breathing difficult.

Using a pregnancy pillow like the Butterfly Maternity Pillow® can make a significant difference in your sleep quality during pregnancy. Our wedge-shaped pillow helps maintain a comfortable side-sleeping position, supporting your bump and aligning your hips for better rest. 

If you’re looking to have the best sleep possible during your pregnancy, check out the Butterfly Maternity Pillow®.

FAQs About Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

Can I sleep on my stomach when pregnant? 

Sleeping on your stomach is generally safe duringpregnancy but becomes impractical and uncomfortable as your belly grows. Although stomach sleeping won’t become unsafe, it can become near impossible with your bump.

Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN with more than 20 years of experience says stomach sleeping is fine during pregnancy, just difficult as the pregnancy progresses. 

Which pregnancy pillow shape is best? 

We believe our wedge-shaped Butterfly Maternity Pillow® is best, as it helps maintain a comfortable side-sleeping position, promoting optimal support and alignment for your back, belly, and hips.

Can I use a regular pillow instead of a pregnancy pillow? 

While you can use regular pillows, our Butterfly Maternity Pillow® is specifically designed for optimal side sleeping, providing targeted support to alleviate pressure points and ensure a restful night's sleep.

How does sleeping on my side benefit my baby? 

Sleeping on your side enhances circulation to the placenta, ensuring your bub receives sufficient oxygen and nutrients for healthy development.

What should I do if I wake up on my back? 

Simply shift to a side sleeping position; your body will naturally signal you to adjust if necessary, and occasional back sleeping is not harmful.

Is it okay to switch sides during the night? 

Yes, switching sides is perfectly fine and can help prevent stiffness and improve circulation.

Can sleeping positions affect my baby's position?

Certain sleeping positions, like side sleeping, can encourage your bub to settle into the optimal position for birth.

Do pregnancy pillows even work?

Yes, pregnancy pillows can be highly effective in providing support and comfort during pregnancy. They help alleviate discomfort, improve sleep quality, and promote better alignment. 

Closing Thoughts 

happy woman cuddling her Butterfly Maternity Pillow® before going to sleep

We hope to have shed some light on the best sleeping positions during pregnancy and eased some of your concerns about back sleeping. 

For more comfy sleep solutions, check out all our products here, designed to support you and your bub where it counts! Wishing you a wonderful pregnancy journey and many restful nights ahead!

*The shape of the Butterfly Maternity Pillow® is a registered trade mark of Weekly Sales Pty Ltd


Be the first to receive exclusive offers and deals.