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RaMa Mama: Why Should I Sleep On My Left Side?...

When a woman finds out she is pregnant for the first time, she is very cautious and careful to make sure that she does everything to help make the baby strong and to keep the pregnancy. Some medical professionals go as far as telling new mothers to only sleep on their left side. As massage therapists, we are also instructed to only allow the mother to lay on her left side... so why is everyone saying this?

As pregnancy progresses, doctors claim there is a greater concern regarding sleep positions and posture. The fetus grows, and the larger the size of the baby, the more there is a concern that blood flow may become a problem. There was a scientific study performed in 2019 on this topic that concluded that sleeping on your back carries the most risk of lack of blood flow to the uterus. There was an increased risk of stillbirth after 28 weeks for those who slept on their backs. But was this risk due to other factors or sleeping posture alone, and what about the right side? There aren't many places where doctors are saying that the right side is worse than the left. Most of the research is particular to the 3rd trimester and laying on the back. A study was recently published by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that found women who had a stillbirth after 28 weeks gestation were 2.3 times as likely to have slept on their backs. Another 2017 study published in the PLOS ONE Journal stated that back sleeping was associated with 3.7 times greater risk of stillbirth.

Research shows that sleeping on the left side allows for optimal blood flow of the heart. Because the inferior vena cava runs parallel to the spine on the right side of the body, carrying blood to the heart and to the baby, then by putting the weight on the left side, there is no risk of cutting off that flow. It also helps to relieve pressure on the liver and kidneys in order to promote better lymphatic flow of fluids throughout the body.

By the third trimester, it will most likely be too uncomfortable to sleep on the belly, and it may be hard to sleep in general for many different reasons. Some things that can help sleep as the belly grows are body pillows, firmer mattresses, and trying to prop the body up to a 45 degree angle. In general, any way a pregnant woman can restfully sleep is great. Pregnant women who do not get enough sleep can develop gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and other problems. The more rest, the better it will be for both mother and child.

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