Is It Safe to Sleep on Your Right Side During Pregnancy?

You might've heard that you can't you sleep on your right side while pregnant—but is this actually true? We spoke with experts to learn more.

Pregnant woman in bed sleeping on side

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If you're expecting a little one, you'll likely come across plenty of myths regarding sleep positions. One of the biggest? You can't sleep on your right side during pregnancy.

It's true that health care providers generally recommend sleeping with a little tilt to the left. This position improves circulation, and it takes pressure off the aorta and inferior vena cava, which provides blood flow to the heart and your fetus.

But despite misconception, sleeping on your right side while pregnant isn't usually harmful. Keep reading to learn about the latest research.

Can You Sleep on Your Right Side While Pregnant?

According to the National Institutes of Health, most experts have long advised pregnant people to sleep on their left side, because previous studies showed sleeping on the right side increased the risks of the following:

However, more current research suggests that sticking to the left side for sleep may not be necessary. Specifically, one study of 8,700 participants found that back and right-sided sleeping did not increase the risks of stillbirth, low birth weight, or "gestational hypertensive disorders" through 30 weeks of pregnancy. Researchers say this is reassuring news, especially for those who have trouble lying on their left side or who often find themselves waking in a position they were told not to be in.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says left- or right-sided sleeping during pregnancy is safe.

Sleep Positions During Pregnancy

So what's the best sleep position during pregnancy? Here, we broke down what experts say about side-sleeping, back-sleeping, and stomach-sleeping positions.

Sleeping on Your Side

ACOG says the best sleeping position during pregnancy is on your side. This is especially true during your second and third trimesters, when the weight of the fetus is more likely to compress the major blood vessels when you're on your back. When these blood vessels are compressed, it can stop blood flow to your uterus, possibly reducing blood flow to the fetus. In addition, you might feel dizzy or light-headed.

Sleeping on Your Back

Experts say to avoid sleeping flat on your back for prolonged periods after about 20 weeks. Why is that? The major blood vessels in the body (the aorta and the vena cava) run just next to the spine on the right side of the body. After about 20 weeks, the weight of the uterus can compress these vessels and decrease blood flow back to your heart and the fetus.

According to researchers, sleeping on your back during late pregnancy increases the chance of stillbirth and may result in "fetal cerebral redistribution," where blood flows to the brain at the expense of other vital organs.

But don't worry too much if you occasionally wake up on your back. Simply move to a side-lying position again when you wake. In addition, you may find that placing a pillow behind your back will help prevent you from rolling onto your back in your sleep.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

ACOG says that stomach sleeping is fine in the earlier months of pregnancy; however, it will naturally become uncomfortable as your belly grows.

Pregnancy Sleep Tips

It can be challenging to sleep during pregnancy. In addition to your growing abdomen, which makes it harder to get comfortable, you're also limited in choosing positions. Not only that, but you may be making multiple trips to the bathroom through the night or experiencing pregnancy-related aches and pains, like heartburn and restless legs.

But never fear: There are pregnancy sleep tips that can help make pregnancy sleep more comfortably:

  • Reduce bathroom runs by limiting your water intake before bedtime
  • Eliminate caffeinated drinks, especially before bed
  • Lower the risk of heartburn by ensuring your last meal is a few hours before snoozing
  • Exercise each day to expend energy and reduce the risk of nighttime leg cramps (just try not to exercise right before bed)
  • Meditate, journal, or talk to a friend to reduce stress before bed
  • Establish and stick to a soothing bedtime routine
  • Use a body pillow or stacked pillows to get comfortable
  • If you don't sleep enough at night, take short naps during the day
  • Take a childbirth class to help you feel prepared and relaxed

Key Takeaways

Experts recommend sleeping on your side during pregnancy. While health care providers used to suggest left-side sleeping because it's more optimal for blood flow, current research doesn't support restricting right-sided sleeping. The main sleep position to avoid in pregnancy is black-lying because it constricts the major blood vessels in your back, especially in late pregnancy.

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  1. Prospective evaluation of maternal sleep position through 30 weeks of gestation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2019.

  2. Sleep in the supine position during pregnancy is associated with fetal cerebral redistributionJ Clin Med. 2020.

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