Sleeping on my Back

Can I sleep on my back in pregnancy?

Many pregnant women are concerned and have been told or read that it is dangerous to sleep or lie on their back in pregnancy. This is a particular concern if a woman is used to sleeping on her back as it is more comfortable and if she wakes to find she has been sleeping on her back

The background is that for some women in advanced pregnancy (after about 28 weeks of pregnancy) to lie flat on their back will can result in light-headedness, dizziness and possibly breathlessness. It can also cause the baby in her uterus to be quieter and even have abnormal heart rate pattern changes especially in labour consistent a reduction in oxygen to the baby.

It happens because the considerable weight of the large size of the uterus in advanced pregnancy and labour presses on a major blood vessel called the inferior vena cava, which carries blood supply back from the lower body to the heart. If this blood flow is reduced then this may slow the flow of blood from the heart to other parts of the body such as your lungs and brain. The problem is called “caval compression”.

What can be done about it?

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If you can lie on your back and feel ok then be reassured you don’t need to be concerned and you can lie or sleep on your back.

If on the other hand you feel unwell then you will want to avoid lying on your back. Usually by lying on your right or left side, sitting in an upright position, or even in a semi-upright position will avoid caval compression.

While a woman lying on her back in labour can cause her baby to have abnormal heart rate pattern to my knowledge if has never been proven that by a woman lying on her back before labour has ever caused her baby to sustain damage through lack of oxygen.

It is likely if it doesn’t affect you it won’t affect your baby

Posted by Dr Gary Sykes on -

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