What's the best sleeping position during pregnancy?

Are you a back, tummy, or side sleeper? Find out whether your preferred sleeping position is safe during pregnancy.

pregnant woman sleeping on her side

Sleeping on your side is the best position for you and your baby during pregnancy, especially once you're more than halfway through your pregnancy.

Sleeping on your side places the least pressure on your veins and internal organs. This ensures the best blood flow to the uterus, which means your baby will get maximum nutrients and oxygen. Good circulation also helps you by reducing potential swelling, varicose veins in your legs, and hemorrhoids.

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I'm not a side sleeper. How can I make the switch to sleeping on my side?

If you're used to sleeping on your back or tummy, you might try to make the transition to your side early in your pregnancy, while sleeping in general isn't uncomfortable. As you get bigger, you can:

  • Use pillows under your belly, between your legs, and behind your back
  • Lean back against a pillow while on your side
  • Lie in a half-sitting position, propped up against some pillows, which can be helpful if you suffer from heartburn.

Is one side better than the other for sleeping during pregnancy?

Some caregivers will suggest that you sleep on your left side in particular, because it's thought that blood flow is better to the heart, uterus, kidney, and baby when you're on your left side. Sleeping on your left side also keeps pressure off your big vein (inferior vena cava), which brings blood from your legs back up to your heart and keeps your circulation going.

But there's no scientific evidence that the left is better than the right. So feel free to shift from side to side.

Is it safe to sleep on my back during pregnancy?

If you typically sleep on your back (supine), it's safe to continue doing so through the first trimester. But as your uterus gets heavier around mid-pregnancy, it's best to choose another position.

That's because lying on your back allows your growing uterus to compress the inferior vena cava (mentioned above), which could theoretically interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients to the placenta and developing baby. It can also result in decreased blood flow for you, which may cause dizziness, shortness of breath, or a fast heart rate. Back sleeping can also contribute to the circulation problems mentioned above (varicose veins, hemorrhoids, swelling) as well as muscle aches and pains and snoring, which can lead to sleep apnea as you put on weight.

Don't be alarmed if you go to sleep on your side and wake up flat on your back. It happens all the time and shouldn't have any serious adverse effect on your baby's health. Just shift your position and go back to sleep.

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Is it safe to sleep on my stomach during pregnancy?

Yes. Tender breasts and a growing belly may soon make sleeping on your stomach uncomfortable, but you can sleep face down for as long as it suits you.

If you're used to sleeping on your stomach and want to continue, try using a donut-shaped pillow to support your growing belly. Some women find this allows them to sleep comfortably on their stomach.

How to sleep when pregnant

Even after you find a comfortable sleeping position (and the perfect pregnancy pillows to make it work), good sleep may be hard to get. Pregnancy symptoms like the constant need to pee, nausea, heartburn, and restless legs can make it hard to sleep well when you're pregnant.

But there are plenty of sleep strategies to try, too. Cut down on caffeine, drink more fluids in the morning and less at night, have a light snack before bedtime, and use relaxation techniques like yoga, stretching, and deep breathing. Establish a soothing bedtime routine and try to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day. If nothing seems to help, ask your provider about safe sleep medications during pregnancy.

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Karen Miles
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She's passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being "Mama Karen" to four grown children and "Nana" to nine grandkids.