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Expert Q&A

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I'm pregnant. Can I sleep on my back?

Asked by Priti, New York

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I'm 6 months pregnant, and I've heard that I shouldn't sleep on my back anymore. Is this true, and why?

Expert Bio Picture

Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

In the third trimester, the weight from the uterus may lead to backaches and discomfort while sleeping, so many women find it more comfortable to lie on one side.

It might be helpful to put a pillow between your legs and bend your knees so you can better stay in that position. Using a body pillow for support can also help.

Avoiding sleeping flat on one's back can help prevent the weight of the growing baby and a woman's other organs from pressing upon the inferior vena cava (the large vein that returns blood flow to the heart) -- a situation that can lead to low blood pressure and make a woman feel dizzy or lightheaded.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not specify lying on one side over the other as being better.

However, some people suggest that lying on the left side is preferable because it may improve blood flow to the uterus, although I am unaware of any studies showing an actual ultimate benefit to the baby. It basically comes down to which side is most comfortable for you.

For more information and the best advice regarding your own pregnancy, be sure to check with your OB or midwife. Good luck!

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