NEWS: Sleeping on Back While Pregnant is as Bad as Smoking 10 Cigarettes a Day

Sleeping during pregnancy isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.

There’s the constant need to pee, the vivid dreams and the massive tummy bulge that makes it extra tricky.

Once you finally get comfortable enough to sleep, you probably don’t even realise the position you’re in. But pregnant women really need to take note of how they are sleeping, especially if you tend to be a back sleeper.

Why? Because experts have warned that sleeping on your back during the final weeks of pregnancy is as bad for you (and baby) as smoking ten cigarettes a day. Yikes!

Back sleeping risks: Low birth weight, higher risk of stillbirth

Here’s what the experts are saying:

  • Expectant mums who lie on their back rather than on their side during their third trimester are three times more likely to have a baby with a low birth-weight.
  • Women in the third trimester of pregnancy who went to sleep lying on their backs were two to three times more likely to have a stillborn baby, compared with women who did not go to sleep lying on their backs

These are very similar findings to women who smoke in pregnancy. One in every five babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy has a low birth weight.  Smoking when pregnant also doubles the risk of infant death.

However, smoking during pregnancy comes with a whole heap of other issues too. It can increase the baby’s heart rate and increase the baby’s risk of developing respiratory problems, some birth defects, and SIDS.

The study comes from the University of Auckland and included 1,700 pregnant mums in New Zealand, the UK and Australia.

Why is sleeping on back while pregnant so bad? 

It all comes down to the blood supply to the placenta. When you sleep on your back, you reduce the blood supply to the placenta and baby due to a major vessel in your abdomen being compressed by your watermelon sized-womb.

This is the same when you smoke – inhaling nicotine lowers the amount of oxygen available to you and your growing baby.

How should pregnant mums sleep?

According to Professor Lesley McCowan, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, your safest bet is to sleep on your side.

The findings reinforce the importance of an ongoing public health campaign that reminds women to ‘sleep on side when baby’s inside’ to reduce the risk of stillbirth.”

If you are pregnant and find yourself waking up on your back, don’t panic. This is quite common.

“Just settle back to sleep on your most comfortable side,” McCowan suggests.

No butts about it, smoking is still a no-no 

There are a number of things that are off-limits when pregnant. While both back sleeping and smoking should be off the table, here are a few other things pregnant mums should be aware of:


Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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