Pregnancy Pillows: What Do The Experts Say?

Is it safe to use a pregnancy pillow?
What do medical experts say about the use of pregnancy pillows?
Should you be using one? 

Is it safe to use a pregnancy pillow? What do medical experts say about the use of pregnancy pillows? Should you be using one? 

Donna Arand, A Sleep Expert, says:

“Sleeping on your side is best while you're pregnant. In particular, sleeping on your left side may benefit your baby by improving blood flow - and therefore nutrients - to the placenta. It also helps your kidneys efficiently eliminate waste products and fluids from your body, which in turn reduces swelling in your ankles, feet and hands."

As for sleeping on your back, avoid that position throughout pregnancy, especially in the later months.

Here's Why ...

  • When you're sleeping on your back, the weight of your uterus lies on the spine, back muscles, intestines, and major blood vessels. This can lead to muscle aches and pains, hemorrhoids, and impaired circulation, which is uncomfortable for you and can reduce circulation to your baby.
  • Back sleeping can make blood pressure drop, causing some expectant moms to experience dizziness. On the other hand, in some moms-to-be it can make blood pressure go up.
  • Finally, back sleeping can cause snoring and, with increased weight, could lead to sleep apnea.”

Dr Adrienne Gordon, a neonatologist from Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital conducted a study of 300 pregnant women and found that there is a link between how women sleep during their pregnancies and the incidence of stillborn babies. Her study showed that women sleeping on their backs in the later stages of pregnancy were six times more likely to have a stillborn baby.

Sleeping on your right side 'could put your unborn baby at risk

In an article in The Daily Mail Jenny Hope reports as follows:

Women who sleep on their right side or back during the late stages of pregnancy could be at higher risk of stillbirth.The risk doubles in the last three months compared with those sleeping on the left side, a study suggests.

Study: Women who sleep on their right side or back during the late stages of pregnancy could be at higher risk of stillbirth. 

A study of more than 450 women – including 155 who had a stillborn – found the risk for those who went to sleep on their left side was 1.96 per 1,000 births.

This figure rose to 3.93 per 1,000 for heavily pregnant women who slept in any other position, and was slightly higher for those lying on their backs.

She also reports that researchers from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, suggest restricted blood flow to the baby may be a reason for the findings. Sleeping on the right side or on the back reduces blood flow through a major vein from the legs to the heart, which affects the supply to the womb.

The researchers wrote online in the British Medical Journal: ‘If our findings are confirmed, promoting optimal sleep position in late pregnancy may have the potential to reduce the incidence of stillbirth.’  However, Dr Lucy Chappell, from the division of women’s health at King’s College London, pointed out that three-quarters of pregnant women sleep mostly on the left side – higher than the rate in women who are not pregnant.

This may suggest they instinctively choose a sleeping position that works best for baby, she added.

Sleeping position ‘would not prevent all stillbirths and women should not feel they are to blame’, she added.

Janet Scott, of the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society charity, said sleeping position could ‘play a part in wellbeing’. After all, she added, mothers-to-be are ‘encouraged to lie on their left for antenatal appointments’ to increase blood flow.

So after having looked at all the information above the conclusion is that the best and safest position to sleep in during pregnancy is on your left side. That is not always going to be easy but if you start early and get into the habit to sleep on your left side it will be much easier later on.

A pregnancy pillow can be used to make it more comfortable and much easier to get into the habit of sleeping on your left side.