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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Is laying on your back during pregnancy truly harmful to the mother and/or baby?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (11657points) May 15th, 2011 from iPhone

I woke up this morning on my back. I have heard this isn’t an ideal sleeping position while pregnant, especially after the 2nd trimester. I can’t control how often I turn and move during the night. I wake up on my back a lot. Apparently it’s comfortable! Can anyone tell me why it’s so bad to sleep in that position? Will it harm my baby?

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24 Answers

Coloma's avatar

No. It is not harmful to the baby, just not comfortable for you. The weight on your bladder and back. I slept on my side with a body pillow the last few months of my pregnancy. It felt really good to throw a leg up over the pillow and prop up my giant belly. lol

Not much you control over how you sleep, just change posistions when you wake up and notice. You’ll both be fine. :-)

skfinkel's avatar

Your baby is encased in a warm envelope of water—safe and sound. I found that sleeping on my side when pregnant was the most comfortable, but your baby is a happy camper no matter.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

So these things I’ve heard about the baby not getting enough oxygen if I lay on my back…not true?

marinelife's avatar

Actually the previous posters are incorrect. Apparently, it is potentially harmful to the baby after the first trimester. From an obstetrician at the Baby Center: “If you typically sleep on your back, it’s safe to continue doing so through the first trimester. But as the uterus gets heavier in the second trimester, it’s best to choose another position.

When you lie on your back, your uterus presses on the vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart. Lying on your back for an extended period of time could interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta and your developing baby.”

I was going to recommend what @Coloma said: get a body pillow to keep you from going over onto your back.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@marinelife is correct about the baby pressing on your vein that returns blood from your lower body. It can also press on the artery that supplies blood to your kidneys, the baby, and your lower body. If the blood supply to the kidneys is cut off for an extended period, it could cause problems with your blood pressure. It would take quite a while and quite a bit of pressure for this to cause serious damage though.

With that said, waking up on your back isn’t really that big of a deal because your body is going to do what it needs to do to support the baby. By the time you would do any damage from having the baby interrupting your blood supply, you would most likely wake up from being uncomfortable anyway. If you wake up laying on your back, you want to lay on your left side for a bit before getting up if you can, as that is the best position for blood flow.

I personally can’t sleep with any of the body pillows or pregnancy pillows that they have out these days. I go to sleep on my sides and if I wake up on my back, I just turn to the side. I wake up on my back all the time because laying on my sides causes a ton of pain in my shoulders and hips (due to the loosened ligaments thanks to the shift in hormones).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes, it really can be harmful. It’s best to be on your left side after the first trimester

Rarebear's avatar

Sort of. There is some theoretical decrease in venous return to the heart from pressure on your inferior vena cava, and in term pregnancies, when there is a problem with late decelerations on the fetal monitoring strip we’ll put women on their left side and give them oxygen.

In general day to day practice, though, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Sunny2's avatar

Good heavens. Women have been having babies as long as there have been women around. It seems like every little step of the way of a pregnancy is fraught with peril. Not to mention the emotions of the mother affecting the fetus. How can you stay relaxed with all these scary possibilities? Get the statistics on all these things that might happen 1 in a hundred? a thousand? a million? Eat right, exercise, get enough rest. Let nature take its course. Have a happy pregnancy.
When I was pregnant, one thing I loved was to go to the beach, dig a hole and lie on my stomach. I missed being able to lie on my stomach.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, I agree with @Sunny2

Sure, anything COULD happen, but, possibility vs. probability.
Women have given birth for eons under horrible circumstances, in the dirt, in caves, on the prairie in wagons, and here we all are!

My great grandmother was born in 1885 in a farmhouse in Indiana as a 2lb. preemie. She lived til she was 98! Attributed her longevity to eating RED MEAT 3 times a day as a farm girl. lololol

JLeslie's avatar

Women have been giving birth forever, but back in the day women died all too often from pregnancy and labor, infant mortality was very high, all sorts of crap that nature and natural is kind of not so great. I agree it seems we might be too worried and obsessed with every little possibility of what might be good or bad while pregnant, but at the same time it bothers me that there is a perception that being pregnant and birthing a baby is no big deal. It bothers me for a multitude of reasons one being that the so many prolifers choose to ignore how dangerous pregnancy can be, even if it is a small amount of the time, and if they had it their way women would be left to die, because doctors would be terrified to save a woman’s life in a bad situation. I know this seems extreme, and many prolifers are ok with saving the mother, but just recently a nun was excommunicated for helping a pregnant already mom get an abortion during a life threatening pregnancy. Pro life people get safe abortions because pro choice people keep up the fight.

Sorry to get political, and I definitely don’t want to derail the thread, just hope maybe it gives people something to think about when they talk about pregnancy being natural and going on for thousands of years.

Sunny2's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 The oxygen the baby gets is from the mother’s blood and it passes by osmosis through capillaries, which are not going to be dislodged by the way you sleep. Who on earth have you been talking to or what have you been reading?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Sunny2 I’ve heard this theory from friends, family, google, doctors, pregnancy books, etc…I just wasn’t sure if I was taking the information the wrong way. I took it as not enough oxygen will get to the baby if I lay on my back too long.

Sunny2's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Well, I know the anxiety and anticipation of pregnancy, so I’d say, do what makes you feel comfortable. If sleeping on your side is okay with you and it makes you feel you’ve done one more thing to make this a successful pregnancy, do it. Erase any doubts.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 I wonder if the vein @marinelife spoke of is the same one affecting your fainting? Or, I guess that is more likely an artery going towards the brain? I don’t remember exactly what people told you on that other Q. Anyway, sleeping on your left is always better in my book, pregnant or not. Fewer organs bunching up on that side.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie Yes! I think the fainting has to do with that vein. The doctor mentioned it. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Just depends on how the baby is resting at the time.

keobooks's avatar

I think lack of sleep is worse for you and the baby than sleeping the “wrong” way. And by the third trimester, just sleep however you can, whenever you can. You’ll be so uncomfortable that I doubt you could sleep in any position long enough to cause any damage.

I slept on my back and on the “wrong” side. I also slept on my belly (sort of, with pillows making a trench so I could sort of lay on my face..) My daughter is just fine now, with no signs of lack of oxygen to the brain. By the last few weeks though, I’d get a nasty tingly feeling and restless legs if I slept on the right side for more than 45 minutes.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Well, then it is diminishing blood supply when you rest incorrectly possibly I guess. I mean it seems it is inhibiting blood flow to your brain at times. If it is indeed the same, then maybe you are more prone to that blood vessel being affected? Hopefully @Rarebear will come back and comment on whether one thing indicates the other.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie I’m here. What do you want me to comment on?
I did a quick literature search on a couple of evidenced based sites and I can’t find anything that says that supine position is bad. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, it just means I didn’t see it. When I get more time, if people are interested, I’ll dig some more.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Just wondering if the fainting spells @ItalianPrincess1217 was having could be an indication that oxygen might be reduced to the fetus? Were you on the Q about her fainting? I can try to search for it. The doctors said it might be some vein or artery, and had her lie on her left side.

Rarebear's avatar

Hm. Fainting while she’s lying down on her back? If that’s true, then probably it has something to do with venous return to the heart.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Well, actually no, it seems it is when she is standing. Here is her old Q about the fainting

Rarebear's avatar

Ah, well then that’s totally different. That indicates one of two things. Either she’s excessively vasovagal, or she’s not drinking enough fluids.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Rarebear It’s happened once while laying on my back during the sonogram and all the other times I was standing up.

Rarebear's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Hard to say. Like I said, it’s only really an issue in term pregnancies where the fetus really compresses the IVC. Either way, though, the treatment is plenty of fluids and position change.

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