Blood circles from the lower part of our bodies back to the heart through the inferior vena cava (IVC), a large, thin-walled blood vessel located near the spine. As the uterus becomes enlarged, it can press against the IVC, reducing blood flow and resulting in dizziness, faintness, low blood pressure and a lack of oxygen to your growing babe. Sleeping on your left side minimizes the amount of pressure the uterus puts on the IVC and improves the flow of oxygen to tissues and the heart.
Obese expectant women are at risk for developing sleep apnea—a dangerous condition in which breathing stops during slumber— and should take extra care to snooze on their left. Moms should report excessive bouts of insomnia and worse-than-usual fatigue to their healthcare providers, who may recommend a visit to a pulmonologist for further evaluation.
Can’t seem to stay away from supine? Try piling pillows behind your back as a barrier to prevent yourself from turning over or lying flat on your back.
For more pregnancy sleep tips, check out these articles:
Many thanks to Linda Burke-Galloway, MD, MS, FACOG, senior physician with the Florida Department of Health, federal medical malpractice consultant, and author of The Smart Mother’s Guide to a Better Pregnancy, for sharing her expert advice.