Why Can't You Sleep on Your Back After 16 Weeks of Pregnancy?

By Susan Revermann

Just in case the pregnancy back pain, heartburn and shortness of breath aren’t bad enough, now you have to pay attention to how you sleep. At some point before the 16-week mark, your doctor or midwife has probably advised you to sleep on your side instead of on your back. Following these instructions can keep you and your little one safe while you snooze.

The First 16 Weeks

During the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, you have a bit more freedom to sleep in any position you please. This is due to the smaller size of your fetus in relation to the size it will eventually be. However, it's not a bad idea to start getting in the habit of sleeping on your side early on in your pregnancy to train your body for the time when you are required to.

No More Back Sleeping

Once you reach 16 weeks, you'll need to change your sleep positions a bit. Sleeping on your back is a bad idea because the baby puts pressure on your intestines and your major blood vessels, mainly the aorta and vena cava. This can decrease circulation to your heart and to your baby. It can also cause faintness, backaches, breathing issues, digestive problems, low blood pressure and hemorrhoids, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Best Sleep Positions

Your sleep options are reduced as your belly grows. The American Pregnancy Association recommends sleeping on your side, preferably on your left side. If you heed this advice, it can help increase the amount of blood and nutrients that circulate to your baby, placenta and kidneys. Bending your knees and using pillows can make you more comfortable while you sleep.

Other Sleep Tips

To help you get the best sleep possible during this time, keep a few relaxation and sleep recommendations in mind. Although you need to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, try to limit them a couple of hours before bedtime to avoid middle-of-the-night potty runs. Also, cut down on caffeinated drinks and foods to avoid extra stimulation and make it harder to fall asleep. Try to stick to a regular sleep routine and a regular bedtime. Exercise earlier in the day and stretch your muscles before bed. Deep-breathing exercises, prenatal yoga and meditation can get you in a relaxed, peaceful state, ready for sleep.