Left-Side Sleep During Pregnancy - Really?

January 13, 2017

Left-Side Sleep During Pregnancy - Really?

By Stephanie Scavelli

There are plenty of life-hack websites and mommy blogs in favor of left-side slumber for pregnant women.  But as a preferred right-side sleeper, I wanted to know if I really needed to change this nightly habit.

Many websites explain the importance of women sleeping on their left-side during pregnancy.  Repeated here and there are claims for better mommy and baby health:  Avoid restricting the inferior vena cava and nerve pathways prevalent on the right side of the body by sleeping on the left.

Midwife Nancy Wainer explained to us on our recent pre-natal visit that Left-Side sleep was written a few decades ago and then gained popularity.  She explained that it is not accurate nor helpful advice to encourage healthy women to a constant left-side sleep.  She told me to sleep how I felt most comfortable.  Use lots of pillows and trust the best advisement will come from my baby who will tell me what is a good position for our sleep together.

An article published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology supports the position that in normal, healthy pregnancies there is no evidence supporting an "exclusive" left-side sleep:

"The most recent paper on healthy subjects, by Bamber et al., found that there was no significant effect on either cardiac output or pulse of adopting a variety of positions ranging from a left tilt to a right one."

The study concludes that "advising women to sleep or lie exclusively on the left side is not practical and is irrelevant to the vast majority of patients."

If a woman is concerned during pregnancy, it should be explained that the concern is over laying flat:

"Instead, women should be told that a minority of pregnant women feel faint when lying flat. Women can easily determine if lying flat has this effect on them, and most will adopt a comfortable position that is likely to be a left supine position or variant thereof."

The Journal article over-reaches the point that "impractical advice" to pregnant women should be avoided:

"Since finding a comfortable position in bed in late pregnancy is not easy, physicians should refrain from providing impractical advice."

Who is encouraging of left-side sleep is Spinning Babies-founder and fetal and mother positioning expert Midwife Gail Tully. On her website's she lists bed rest tips. Tully's recommendation is to be a left-side preferred sleeper:  

"Sleeping or resting, even in bed rest, on a woman’s left side may be protective of the baby. When choosing which side to rest on, prefer your left side more than your right. Avoid sleeping on your back after the first few months in pregnancy even if it seems comfortable."

The more important point is to limit time sleeping or resting directly on her back.  

 About the Author

Certified Yoga Instructor Stephanie Scavelli practices a plant-based diet and traditional herbal medicine. She laughs endlessly at the adventurous whit of the animation series Rick & Morty. She wears minimalist, barefoot-inspired shoes and her favorite dessert is her sister's Oatmeal Crusted Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Stephanie lives in Westchester County, NY with her daughter Juniper. For yoga classes and workshops near you visit www.yogaforager.com.