Once you are more than 28 weeks pregnant, the safest position for relaxation or go to sleep is on your side, either left or right. This is because when you lie on your back, the weight of the baby (and placenta, and amniotic fluid) can compress the vena cava, an important blood vessel which returns blood to the heart. Some women are affected by this much earlier in pregnancy – you may feel dizzy when you lie down.
In my classes I teach a variety of supported relaxation postures that are completely safe during pregnancy. This is the most useful one as it can also be used at night for sleeping. It is really important to use cushions and pillows to support your pregnant body in resting poses to keep your joints stable (especially hips and pelvis) and avoid strain on your ligaments.
I recommend making time for 15-20mins of relaxation each and every day that you are pregnant in addition to relaxation in bed in the evening. Please don’t wait for maternity leave to start relaxing. The sooner you start this daily practice the better and it will give you more energy for work and family commitments. It could be done in the morning, in the middle of the day or when you first get home from work. Choose a supportive resting pose and practice Golden Thread Breathing or listen to a free pregnancy relaxation from my Soundcloud page.
Side Lying Relaxation Pose
Here are my top tips for a comfortable side-lying relaxation:
- Padding – if you are lying on the floor or in your nest make sure you have plenty of padding for the side of the body you are lying on. Your bump may also need some padding! Here I have simply used a folded blanket.
- Head Support – when you lie on your side you will probably need a fatter pillow than when you lie on your back. Measure the distance from your outer shoulder to the base of your neck and make the pillow that fat. This will keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine (which usually feels more comfortable!)
- Knees and Ankles Spacer – place a long cushion, bolster or 2-3 blankets between your knees and ankles. This will ideally be padded enough to keep your knees and ankles hip width apart. This prevents the weight of the top thigh slowly hanging out of the top hip socket and causing discomfort when you get up. With your pelvis really stable you will feel more comfortable and its easier to relax or sleep when you’re comfy!
- Release the shoulder – when you lie on your side, the shoulder you are lying on often feels a bit squashed. To improve your comfort, slide the bottom arm away from your body until you feel you can rest on the shoulder blade rather than the arm. Place a blanket or cushion to support your bottom hand.
- Something to hug – a large cushion, bundle of blankets or even a teddy bear can be a good way to support the weight of your top arm while you rest.
- Warm feet – invest in some fabulous socks or cover your feet with a blanket to keep them warm – its impossible to relax with cold feet!
Research suggests that, after 28 weeks, falling asleep on your back can increase the risk of stillbirth. This may be to do with the flow of blood and oxygen to the baby.
Don’t worry if you wake up on your back – the research looked at the position women fell asleep in, as this is the position we keep for longest. If you wake up on your back, you can just turn over and go to sleep again on your side.
Support your bump with pillows and put a pillow between your knees.
The baby charity Tommy’s has a video about safer sleeping in pregnancy.