Why must I sleep on my left side when pregnant?
All too often, a pregnant mom is instructed by her care provider to sleep only on her left side. After weeks of “one side sleeping,” most women start to develop discomfort in their hips and aches in their necks and shoulders. I have even had panicked mamas approach me with concern that they woke up on their back and they have now hurt their baby! So what is the reasoning behind left side sleeping?
It is because of Vena Cava Syndrome. The inferior vena cava (a large vein responsible for the venous return from the lower half of the body back to the mother’s heart), which runs slightly to the right of the aorta. When compressed and compromised by the weight of the baby, as it would perhaps be by right side or back sleeping, the blood return doesn’t flow as fluidly back to the mother’s heart and she may feel light-headed, nauseated, or a sense of breathlessness or heaviness in her chest.
Should the mother start to experience any of these symptoms, the problem is easily remedied by rolling onto her left side. Some women are more sensitive to vena cava syndrome and must modify their sleep position to be only on the left side, while others can comfortably recline on their back or right side without any issues.
Since the body has a quick reaction to the vena cava being compressed, I remind my students that sleep is very important for a healthy pregnancy and that their body will signal them to adjust their position.
Here’s to a good night sleep!
Debra Flashenberg, CD(DONA), LCCE, E-RYT 500 is the director of the Prenatal Yoga Center. She has spent most of her life performing and was introduced to yoga through a choreographer in 1997. After several years as a yoga student, she decided to continue her education and became certified as a Bikram Yoga instructor. After being witness to several “typical” hospital births, Debra felt it was important to move beyond the yoga room and be present in the birthing room. In 2006, Debra received her certification as a Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator. In September of 2007, Debra completed a Midwife Assistant Program with Ina May Gaskin, Pamela Hunt and many of the other Farm Midwives at The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. Drawing on her experience as a prenatal yoga teacher, labor support doula and childbirth educator, Debra looks to establish safe and effective classes for pregnancy and beyond. She is the proud (and tired) mother of new baby boy, Shay.
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