WORDS LIM TECK CHOON
When it comes to pregnancy, the mom will have to generate enough energy for her well-being and for the growth and development of her baby. This includes eating for two (or more if she is carrying more than one baby!) as well as getting enough sleep to meet the physical demands of pregnancy.
Of course, the mom may have to adopt a different sleeping position during the pregnancy. This brings us to the question of which sleeping position is best when it comes to keeping the baby safe while allowing mom to get the most out of her sleep.
THE ACCEPTED CONVENTIONAL WISDOM OUT THERE
It is generally assumed that sleeping on the left side is better for a pregnant woman, as it’s more comfortable and helps to maintain proper blood flow between the mom and the baby she is carrying. This better blood flow also decreases the chances of swelling around the mom’s ankles and in her legs.
Sleeping on the right side is said to put pressure on the mom’s liver, so many advise a pregnant woman to sleep on her right side only for short naps.
How true are all these assumptions, though?
THE UK NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH AND CARE EXCELLENCE (NICE) REVIEWED AVAILABLE EVIDENCE
They stated that the purpose of their review was to determine whether there is any link between the mom’s sleeping position and the incidence of either stillbirth or the baby being born smaller in size than typical normal, healthy babies of the same age (small for gestational age or SGA).
In their findings, published in 2021, they stated that:
There is high quality evidence linking supine going-to-sleep position—that is, the mom sleeps lying on her back—and stillbirth.
NICE noted that the overall incidence of stillbirth is generally low (1 in every 244 births in the UK based on 2018 statistics), but they feel that there is enough evidence for doctors to advise pregnant moms to avoid sleeping in this position.
HOW ABOUT SLEEPING ON THE LEFT SIDE THAT IS GENERALLY SAID TO BE GOOD FOR MOM & BABY? ANY EVIDENCE FOR THAT?
Well, NICE noted that the evidence for this, as well as for sleeping on the right side, ranged from low quality to very low quality. They concluded, therefore, that more research would be needed to look into this matter.
One thing is for sure, though—they noted that sleeping on mom’s back is definitely something to be avoided!
THE TAKE HOME MESSAGE
Pregnancy may also give rise to other sleeping issues, such as problems falling asleep, and special care is often needed for pregnant women that also have obstructive sleep apneoa (OSA) and other health conditions that could affect her sleep or her breathing while she is asleep.
Hence, it’s always sensible for a couple expecting a baby to discuss mom’s sleep matters further with their obstetrician and gynaecologist. They should do this as early as possible—don’t wait for the sleeping issues to arise first!
Reference: National Guideline Alliance (UK). (2021). Maternal sleep position during pregnancy: Antenatal care. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK573947/