You might wonder whether it is even possible to sleep comfortably during the final phase of your pregnancy. Is it possible to sleep sitting upright? And how many pillows do you actually need?
Whether a particular sleep position should be recommended to pregnant women is currently under debate. During pregnancy, your blood flow and blood volume increase. Pressure on your blood vessels rises as your uterus and baby grow. This is particularly evident when you lie on your back since there is more pressure on one specific vein in your back, the Vena Cava. Dizziness, nausea and a drop in blood pressure are common. In a worst-case scenario, you could faint. Blood circulation to the pregnancy and the baby can also be affected. This phenomenon passes as soon as you change position and the pressure on the vein lightens. We know that blood supply to the pregnancy, the baby and the pregnant woman is best when she lies on her left side.
When we sleep, we seldom lie completely still but often change positions—and this usually happens automatically. If you feel fine when you sleep on your back, then it is perfectly OK to do so. However, it’s likely that you will not feel comfortable sleeping on your back by the end of your pregnancy.
A few studies have looked at women’s sleeping positions and whether that could have an impact on the baby in the uterus. It is possible that there is a link between a supine position and a greater risk for the baby in the uterus. That said, it is important to bear in mind that the risk of Vena Cava syndrome is very slim and the risk of it affecting the baby is even slimmer, though there does appear to be some connection. It was also determined that more research in the matter was necessary before amending any recommendations or guidelines. Some countries—the UK and New Zeeland, for example—have modified recommendations regarding sleeping positions for pregnant women in the third trimester to sleeping on their left side, turning onto their left side if they wake on their back, and lying on the left side when resting during the day.
It’s worth considering this information. Pregnant women’s sleep at the end of the pregnancy is already affected and it is hard enough to find a comfortable sleep position as is. The importance of rest and sleep is paramount. Generally speaking, try to find a comfortable position and use pillows and cushions. The left side is usually most comfortable, ideally with a small pillow or cushion propped under the right side of your back. This will cause your belly to tip a bit. You don’t need to lie fully on your side. Obviously, there is no cause for concern if you wake on your back having had a good night’s sleep.