You’ve done the test, your bump is growing, you’re having a regular pregnancy massage and you already have a list of baby names as long as your arm… the world is spinning with things to do. From fitting in antenatal appointments between your job, to eating healthily – there is a lot to keep track of, but had you ever thought about how your sleeping position can affect your baby’s health?
Why do I need to sleep on my side during pregnancy?
In support of Tommy’s ‘How to sleep safely during pregnancy’ campaign, we’re keen to help spread the word of the benefits of sleeping on your side during your pregnancy – especially during your third trimester.
Women are well aware of the risks of smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy, but what you might not know is the effect lying supine (on your back) can have on your unborn baby. To date, there have been four case-controlled studies into the relationship between sleeping position and stillbirth. The largest study in the UK, the MiNESS Study, concluded that women who slept flat on their back had a 2.3 fold increase in late still birth compared to those who lay on their side. The reasoning behind this is quite simple: when you lay flat on your back for long periods, especially during your third trimester, the weight of your baby can put pressure on your organs, compressing blood flow around your body and reducing the oxygen supply to your baby.
What if I wake up on my back?
Don’t worry, you can’t control what you do in your sleep. If you wake up on your back, you can just roll over and go back to sleep on your side. If you notice that this is a reoccurring pattern, there are a number of things that you can try to reduce this such as:
- Putting a pillow or pillows behind your back to encourage side-sleeping. This can be difficult if you have symphysis pubic dysfunction or pelvic girdle pain. If this is the case, you can put pillows between your top leg and your bottom leg, and keeping your top leg level can help to reduce pain.
- If you wake during the night, check your position and go back to sleep on your side.
- Pay the same attention to sleep position during the day as you would during the night.
- If you have long hair, try tying it in a low bun, which may make it uncomfortable to sleep on your back for any length of time.
Why should I invest in a pregnancy pillow?
You’ve seen them on Instagram and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – not to mention prices! So as your bump grows ever bigger and your sleep pattern becomes more disturbed, is it time to invest in a pregnancy pillow? The good news is that these fantastic creations aren’t just for a good night’s sleep. They come with a number of added benefits as well.
The benefits of a pregnancy pillow
What to do or what not to do can be a minefield during pregnancy, but rest assured there are a number of ergonomic options available to you. Here are a few pro’s (and con’s) of pregnancy pillows to help you choose what’s best for you to get that much needed comfort.
Alleviate Back Pain
During pregnancy, your body increases its production of a hormone known as Relaxin. It helps to regulate the cardiovascular system, by relaxing blood vessels which in turn helps the body to cope with the extra demands for oxygen and nutrients placed upon it by the foetus. It also relaxes your ligaments, particularly around the pelvis to prepare your body for birth.
As your pregnancy progresses and your bump gets bigger, the weight of your baby can put a lot of strain on your lower back. A pregnancy pillow can be a great support for those sore, problematic areas. Back pain is common during pregnancy and another great way to alleviate a sore back is a pregnancy massage.
Comfortable sleeping position
As we’ve discussed, a pregnancy pillow can help you find a comfortable sleeping position, especially in your third trimester.
If you lay flat on your back for long periods, especially in your third trimester, the weight of your baby can put pressure on your organs and reduce blood flow to you and your baby. If you’re not used to sleeping on hour side, a pregnancy pillow can offer just the right amount of support for you and your baby in the side lying position, meaning that you both can get a comfortable night’s sleep.
Comfortable breast-feeding position
There are so many shapes and sizes to choose from so it is worth shopping around. If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, or if you are having a caesarean, you may find that a multifunctional pillow will help you bond with your baby.
Remember: baby’s get heavier, So your pregnancy pillow can offer you and your baby just the right amount of support during those important feeding times. From v-shaped to c-shaped, bean filled to firm, you will find a lot to choose from with many pillows being easily tied, zipped or adjusted to suit the modern mother and baby’s needs.
So, if you find yourself umming and ahhing over the price, consider the life of your pillow postpartum – it may well be a bargain in disguise!
Elevate tired feet
There are lots of reasons why women get swollen feet, legs and hands during pregnancy and one of the ways to alleviate the stresses and strains of the day is to prop your feet up. Cue your pregnancy pillow!
If you are used to being on the go it might be hard to stop and just relax, but remember that taking some ‘me time’ is important. It give gives your body and mind a chance to adjust to the physical changes you are going through.
Sleep away from home
Whether you have to travel a lot because of work or you have a weekend away with the girls, your pregnancy pillow can be that bit of extra comfort if you find yourself trying to sleep in a not-so-comfy hotel bed. Some pregnancy pillows are small enough to fit in a travel bag – it could very quickly become your hassle-free sleep companion.
What pregnancy pillow is right for me?
So now you know some of the benefits, how do you know which pillow is right for you? Here are a few things to consider:
- Full body – These pillows tend to be either u-shaped or c-shaped. These are great if you like sleeping on your back but can’t due to the weight of your bump. These full body pillows support your head, back, tummy and legs whilst encouraging you to lie on your side.
- Full Length – This is great if you like to cuddle your pillow whilst you sleep. It’s a great support for arms, legs and tummy. The only downside is it doesn’t provide any back support.
- Wedges – The smallest pregnancy pillows, these are great for specific problems areas if you don’t like being cocooned in a full body pillow. You can place one under your tummy, your back or wherever you feel you need the support.
- V-shaped – Not only can this pillow support you whilst lying on your side, but it can also provide back support you when sitting.
- Adjustable and multifunctional – Some pillows can continue to support you postpartum, it can be your breastfeeding pal or a seated support – so it’s good to do your homework.
Remember, the most important thing is that you and your baby are safe and comfortable. If you’re still not sure whether a pillow would help to improve your sleep seek the advice of a trusted health professional such as your midwife or GP. When it comes to your pregnancy, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so make sure you do what works for you, your baby and your partner.
In addition to this, If you ever have any concerns about you or your baby’s health, it’s always good to seek help from a trusted professional such as your midwife or GP. The NHS has lots of great advice for new and expectant mums too.