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Protecting a Bump in the Night: The Best Sleeping Positions for Pregnant Women

Protecting a Bump in the Night: The Best Sleeping Positions for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is a miraculous thing, isn’t it? The excitement of bringing a new life into the world and the joy found in sharing the experience with your significant other makes pregnancy utterly magical. At least, I can say that, since I’ve never experienced it first-hand. Nor will I ever, given the Y chromosome in my DNA.

Of course, I can’t understand how pregnancy feels or the struggles you go through; but I can research the subject thoroughly and try to offer some helpful advice. After all, I’m no stranger to sleep, both educating myself about it and thoroughly enjoying it, so I dove into a behemoth sized amount of blogs, research papers, studies, health books and more. But my predisposed ignorance and lack of any experience created a wall around every corner, so I decided to seek out help from those who know the subject best.

It’s here that I will wholeheartedly confess that most of this article comes from the mouths of the beautiful mothers we have working here at Happy Beds; I am merely a man at a keyboard journaling their advice and experience.


The Best Sleeping Position for Pregnant Woman During the First Trimester

Sleeping On Front
The first trimester, which is generally considered the time between conception and 13 weeks, is essentially a safe time to sleep however you wish. Various sources have said that it’s even fine to sleep on your stomach, as a significant bump won’t start showing until the second trimester.

However, it’s one thing to read this advice and it’s another thing entirely to believe it. Rather, even if you believe it, it’s hard to trust it enough to follow through. This is particularly true for Jade here at Happy Beds, who said:

“The doctors said I could sleep on my belly, which was great because I always sleep on my belly, but that first night me and my fella came back from the doctors I couldn’t do it. I was way too scared to sleep on my belly, even with my fella parroting everything the doctor had said!

“I’d always say that it’s best to take in as much professional advice as you can, listen to everything the doctor has to say and ask every question that comes to mind, but if there are things that you’re uncomfortable with then trust your instinct!”

As Jade says, being prepared and ready with knowledge is the best way to begin your journey through pregnancy, though it’s hard to be objective and clinical about what must surely be an incredibly exciting and nervous time in your life. This is where Dora’s advice comes to mind, with a focus less on how to sleep and more on how to prepare for the road ahead:

“You’re always so full of excitement, overflowing with it in fact that you’re constantly talking about it. Everything is new, every new feeling and sensation is worth a lengthy discussion since you don’t really know what to do. It’s probably because of this that actually being tired enough to fall asleep will be pretty difficult! Try to go to bed relatively early, and rest fully before trying to sleep.

“It’s best to try and calm down, distract yourself from the fact that you’re pregnant. Read a good book, put on your favourite film or television series; anything to keep your mind whirling. All women are afraid of sleeping on their belly, but after a couple of weeks you’ll get used to the fact that it does no harm to the baby.

“Every now and then you’ll get morning sickness, whether it’s all day or before going to bed, so having a glass of water of some neutral tasting snacks close at hand can really help.”



The Best Sleeping Position for Pregnant Woman During the Second Trimester

Sleeping On Side
After about 14 weeks the second trimester begins, and the bump should begin to appear (if it hasn’t already). By now the uterus should become large enough to interfere with blood flow when sleeping on your back, so sadly it seems that the luxury of sleeping however you wish is no longer afforded to you.

Sleeping on your back whilst pregnant can also cause problems with your digestive system, blood pressure, breathing and haemorrhoids, so it’s probably best avoided.

It’s now that a lot of women start becoming uncomfortable, and this was evident on each of the faces here at Happy Beds’ mums. Whilst going through their separate stories, each woman’s face shifted into some form of a grimace whilst recounting this part of the pregnancy, such as Maureen’s dismay at no longer being to sleep on her back:

“Not being able to turn over and sleep face down was a lot harder than I thought it’d be; the entire time during the first trimester I was prepping myself, you know, saying how it’d be fine and I’d get used to it. And then; bam, the bump appeared and suddenly it just wasn’t feasible! I’ve never really slept on my sides before, not reliably that is, so having to adjust to that was one of the weirdest parts of it all.

“Then there were the constant toilet trips; it was as if I’d spent every waking moment drinking coffee! As soon as I got almost comfy nature, or should I say the little one in me, started calling so I constantly had to get up to answer it! I’d say keep a clear path to the bathroom in that case, and make sure you can get there quickly!”

As Maureen’s accounts suggest, it’s around this time that the struggles of pregnancy are becoming very hard to ignore. Oddly enough though on the other side of the fence are Dora’s recollections. Hers were much more relaxed, and saw external assistance becoming more and more essential:

“I found this trimester to be the calmest part sleeping-wise. You’ve calmed down a bit, there are no big surprises, and everything is going the way it should; but your belly’s still getting larger and more and more in the way! If you’ve never slept on your side then trust me, you’ll learn how to during this trimester!

“You can’t sleep on your belly because it feels like your head’s floating and when you’re on your back you can hardly breathe. It was around this time when I bought a nursery pillow and used it under my belly or between my legs to help make myself a little bit more comfortable.”



The Best Sleeping Position for Pregnant Woman During the Third Trimester

Pregnancy Pillow
(image: Panek under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Last, but certainly not least, is the third trimester, the last stretch that’s dreaded by virtually any pregnant woman. Now, there are no other options for sleeping other than sleeping on your side, while one study has suggested specifically sleeping on your left side. Why? Well, apparently this will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby.

Even with this study in mind, it appears that sleeping on your side is not only the most comfortable sleeping position, but the only sleeping position. To try and gain some vestige of comfort most sources suggest stocking up on pillows, or more effectively, pregnancy body pillows.

This latter product would be best secured sooner rather than later, as it’ll help you adjust to and get used to them. Plus, propping yourself up is said to help with heartburn during the night (a common pregnancy symptom), as well as help relieve shortness of breath.

More insight from the ladies from Happy Beds will probably be more useful though, as well as reinforcing what’s already been claimed by external studies. Melissa, for one, said that though her third trimester wasn’t exactly a picnic she managed to remain positive throughout a lot of it:

“Both of my babies left me looking slightly like a hippo during my third trimester, so my bump was rather big and somewhat of a burden when trying to get to sleep. The best, and only, position I found that would let me drift off to sleep was on my left side.

“My pregnancy pillows kept me propped up, so I wouldn’t roll onto my back in my sleep, and I had a big, ‘V’ shaped pillow that I moulded between my legs and slightly under my bump. Sadly, I discovered that, really, there’s no way of achieving absolute comfort in the third trimester; but this did help slightly! And trust me, even a tiny bit of comfort can help leagues and bounds!”

Jade also had a few remarks towards the third trimester, swearing off having any more children to avoid what she called ‘a level of discomfort you could never, ever understand’. In brief, she advised any women in their third trimester:

“Get big, bulky and chunky pillows; find a good book that’ll keep your attention for a long time; and be sure to make your man’s life a living hell as well! It won’t help either of you but hey, you might as well share the love (and give misery some company!)

“It’s not great, but you’ll find that as soon as you get comfy your baby will start having a party inside you and keep you awake all night! So, say goodnight to sleep, because it’s not going to come around too easily!”.



The Verdict: The Best Position to Sleep When Pregnant is on Your Side

As you can see, it seems like the best sleeping position is merely being on your side. But, there are surely other ways of helping to get some sleep while a little one’s active in the womb; if you know of any then free to tweet us, find us on Facebook and tag us on Instagram with your thoughts!

If you’re currently expecting, or are planning on trying soon, give yourself the best chance of a decent slumber with a comfortable yet supportive mattress. Our memory foam mattresses are ideal for pregnant women and partners alike.

Alternatively, read the findings of our recent pregnancy study which asked 2,000 parents about their sleep whilst expecting: 'The Uncomfortable Truth: Why Women Can't Sleep When Pregnant'

Our pregnancy sleep study: The uncomfortable truth