Is it SAFE to lie/sleep on my stomach during pregnancy?

"Is it safe for my baby if I lie or sleep on my stomach during my pregnancy" - is the most frequently asked question I get.

The short answer: YES! 

But I know that in this case, a straight forward "Yes" is not enough.  I need evidence, reasoning and most of all, I need to know whether this revolutionary sleeping position hold any benefits for me and my baby.

As a religious stomach sleeper (pre-pregnancy) this was the best news to me!

Also, sleeping on your stomach have benefits especially when it allows you to get actual good quality sleep like keeping your heart healthy, building a strong immune system, mental health, improves attention and concentration, the list goes on and on and on.  Sleeping on your stomach also helps with snoring and sleep apnea.

Now, coming back to pregnancy and stomach sleeping.  When you start digging you’ll find that research in this area has been in motion since 1998.

The Japanese compared humans to other mammals - all of which carry their babies forward facing [1].   They also mention that mammals have far less birth fatalities than humans – could this be because we spend so much time sitting/standing/lying on our sides?  And not enough on our fronts?  This is obviously unconfirmed but a very interesting observation.   

In addition, they found that the women' umbilical arterial systolic/diastolic ratios decreased when they were lying on their front.  Now for us non-medical people, the umbilical arteries are one of two arteries in the human body that supply the limbs of the fetus with deoxygenated blood and nutrients.  Why is it is good thing that this decreases?  Because higher umbilical artery ratios have been associated with asymmetric prenatal growth, poor weight gain and decreased myocardial (heart) performance in infants with HLHS (hypoplastic left heart syndrome) [2].

Fast forward to 2017, research undertaken in Brazil have shown that spending time on your front improves oxygen saturation, reduce systolic blood pressure and decreases respiratory rates [3].  In other words blood and oxygen flow between mom and baby improves while blood pressure goes down and breathing slows down (less stress basically, a relax state).  Okay great, but why should I care?  Because this means that the placenta is actually performing at its best in providing your baby with two of the most important things (oxygen, nutrients and clean blood) to ensure growth and development.

In Australia, an observational study discovered that front lying during pregnancy have reduced the blood-pressure in some of their patients who suffer from preeclampsia [4].  This wasn't for a very long time, but wow!  Can you imagine if this is taken further and all this time the treatment for preeclampsia is simply spending time on your stomach!  That is huge!

Fast forward to 2020 (what a year, hey?!), in Saudi Arabia a woman, 28weeks pregnant, was diagnosed with severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) due to a MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) infection (also called the MERS virus) [5].  She was placed on her front for 18hours and showed an immediate improvement.  As soon as she the doctors turned her around, her oxygen levels started dropping again to life threating levels.  So they turned her back on her stomach for 5 consecutive days and she walked out of hospital, baby intact!  How incredible is this?!

This is just the published medical research and medical case studies.  This is not even the medical observations that have been published.  One of which linking lower back pain in pregnancy to the sleep positions we take, especially when we lie on our sides which places a lot of strain on your spine and back when we stay in one position for too long [6].  Or how maternal sleep positions are linked to risk factors for stillbirth [7], such as maternal hypertension, gestational diabetes, and fetal growth restriction – all associated with the position in which pregnant woman sleep [8].

Point is, all of the medical research, case studies and observations point to the fact that lying and sleeping on your front would not cause any harm to you or your baby during pregnancy.  It is perfectly safe, as long as you are comfortable and don't feel any pain or strain on your spine, hips, pelvis or legs.  Just like any other sleeping, sitting or standing position.

Should more research be done?  Absolutely!!  We have only hit the tip of the iceberg, imagine the other discoveries we'll make by digging deeper?  This is why we’ve partnered with the University of Manchester and Saint Mary's Hospital, Manchester to continue building on the existing medical research which will start in 2021, led by Prof Alexander Heazell MBChB(Hons) PhD MRCOG and funded by The Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust (DCEPT). We hope that this will be the first of many studies to explore how women can experience healthier, pain-free pregnancies.  Read more here.

I hope this article was helpful, explained things in the plainest possible way, and that you got the answers that lead you here.

Any questions or comments, pop them below as I love to hear from you!

 

 

BUY your very own Anna Pregnancy Pillow - the first front-lying pregnancy pillow to take you from prenatal to postnatal by visiting Natal Comfort.

 

Disclosure: This is my observations and understanding based on the medical resources listed below.  You should always consult your health professional when you are unsure about anything, are feeling concerned, experience pain or discomfort. 

 

RESOURCES: 

[1] Nakai Y, Mine M, Nishio J, Maeda T, Imanaka M, Ogita S. Effects of maternal prone position of the umbilical arterial flow. Acta Obstet GynecolScand. 1998;77((10)):967–9. doi: 10.1080/j.1600-0412.1998.771003.x; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9849838/. 

[2] Miller T.A., Joss-Moore L, Menon S.C, Weng C, Puchalski M.D. Umbilical Artery Systolic to Diastolic Ratio is Associated with Growth and Myocardial Performance in Infants with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Prenat Diagn. 2014 Feb; 34(2): 128–133. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999234/. 

[3] Oliveira C, Lopes M.A.B, Rodrigues A.S, Zugaib M, Francisco R.P.V. Influence of the prone position on a stretcher for pregnant women on maternal and fetal hemodynamic parameters and comfort in pregnancy. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2017 Jun; 72(6): 325–332. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5463251/. 

[4] Dennis A.T, Hardy L, Leeton L. The prone position in healthy pregnant women and in women with preeclampsia - a pilot study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Nov 16;18(1):445. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30445912/. 

[5] Ali M, Sajjad N.S. Prone Positioning for Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome in Pregnancy. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine 2016;193:A1886. https://www.atsjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1164/ajrccm-conference.2016.193.1_MeetingAbstracts.A1886. 

[6] Sabino J, Frauer J.N. Pregnancy and low back pain. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med. 2008 Jun; 1(2): 137–141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684210/. 

[7] Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967. 

[8] O'Brien L.M, Warland J. Maternal sleep position: what do we know where do we go? BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2015; 15(Suppl 1):A4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4402690/.

Anna Pregnancy Pillow - Medical Research

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