Your baby bump – a new way of sleeping?

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“Sleep now, because you won’t have a chance when the baby comes!”

Ever heard that line from a friend or relative? I know many soon to be mamas want those restful 8 or more hours of zzz’s but can’t seem to get comfortable! Who knew that your tiny baby could cause such big sleeping problems?

The general advice found on many pregnancy blogs and websites suggests that lying on your stomach or back is not recommended and that lying on your left side is an ideal sleep position. Armed with this information and the fear of harming baby, many women restrict their sleeping to their left side only. No wonder they are uncomfortable and struggle to find restful sleep!

After researching both the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – neither suggest any pattern or position for sleep. The general recommendation of many obstetricians is that sleep position in your first trimester has no impact on your health or your baby’s.

Later in pregnancy (2nd and 3rd trimesters), the cause for concern stems from the weight of the uterus and the size of the growing baby. This growth in the size and weight of the uterus can place pressure on the inferior vena cava (a large vein that returns blood from your lower body to your heart) when lying on your back for an extended period of time. The pressure on the inferior vena cava could interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients going to the placenta and thus to the baby. Lying on your left side may optimize blood flow.

Start off lying on your left side going to sleep, but if you wake up and catch yourself on your back or your right side, don’t worry. You can and should switch positions from time to time for your own comfort! Your body has a way of telling you when things aren’t quite right and when it’s time to change position. If you are feeling faint or light headed sleeping on your back during pregnancy, consult with your family doctor, midwife or ob/gyn.

Of course, there may be other reasons why the sleep you crave is constantly out of reach. Things like frequent trips to the bathroom, weird vivid dreams or discomforts like heartburn.

Here are a few tips I give mama’s that may help:

  • Cut back on caffeine
  • Nap during the day if you have a moment
  • Avoid heavy meals and limit liquids before bed
  • Do something relaxing before lights out (warm baths, a good book)
  • Enjoy some light exercise (walk around the block, yoga, quiet meditation)
  • Use pillows (between your knees and/or under your belly)

If you are still not able to get comfortable, get up and do a quiet activity for awhile and try again. Almost there Mama!

Farine, D, Seaward G. When it comes to Pregnant Women Sleeping, Is Left Right?. JOGC October 2007.

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