How long can I lie on my back while pregnant?

Quick Answers

Most experts recommend avoiding lying flat on your back during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester. Lying on your back for short periods is generally safe, but longer periods can decrease blood flow and be uncomfortable. Side sleeping is usually best as the pregnancy progresses.

Is It Safe to Lie on My Back While Pregnant?

Lying on your back, also called the supine position, is generally safe during most of your pregnancy. However, as your belly grows, the weight of your uterus can compress a major blood vessel called the vena cava when you lie flat. This can decrease blood flow to your heart and your baby.1

During the first trimester, the uterus is still small and located low in the pelvis. So lying on your back is unlikely to cause problems early on.2

In the second trimester, lying on your back for short periods is generally fine. But as the uterus grows, you may feel lightheaded, dizzy, faint, nauseous, or short of breath if you lie flat too long.3 These are signs that lying on your back is reducing blood flow.

In the third trimester, experts recommend avoiding lying on your back as much as possible. The heavy uterus places significant pressure on the vena cava when you’re supine.4

When Is Lying on My Back a Concern?

Lying flat on your back is most concerning during the late second trimester and third trimester when the enlarged uterus presses on major blood vessels.

Signs that lying on your back may be reducing blood flow include:5

– Lightheadedness
– Dizziness
– Shortness of breath
– Nausea
– Vomiting
– Fainting

You may notice these symptoms after lying on your back for just a few minutes. The longer you lie supine, the worse symptoms may become.

A rare but serious complication called supine hypotensive syndrome can occur if lying on the back reduces blood flow and oxygen delivery for a prolonged period. This can cause changes in your baby’s heart rate.

How Long Can I Lie on My Back?

There are no strict time limits for lying on your back during pregnancy. It depends on how you feel and your stage of pregnancy. Here are some general guidelines:6

– First trimester: Lying on your back is typically safe, even for longer periods.

– Second trimester: Limit time on your back to 15-20 minutes at a time. Change positions if you feel any lightheadedness or other symptoms.

– Third trimester: Avoid lying flat as much as possible, especially after 30 weeks. Limit time on your back to just a few minutes.

Always get up from a supine position slowly and carefully. Rolling to your side first can help prevent dizziness before sitting up or standing. Let your healthcare provider know if you have symptoms while lying on your back.

What Is the Best Sleep Position During Pregnancy?

Because spending hours lying on your back while sleeping could be problematic in the later stages of pregnancy, experts recommend side sleeping.7

Sleeping on your left side is considered especially beneficial. It improves blood flow to your heart, uterus, and kidneys. Sleeping on your right side may cause some discomfort from liver pressure.

Tips for side sleeping:

– Place pillows between your knees, under your belly, and behind your back for support. This prevents strain on your hips and spine.

– If you wake up on your back, gently roll onto your side before getting up.

– Try using pillows or rolled towels along your back to keep you from rolling onto your back while sleeping.

Some women may be comfortable sleeping propped up at an incline. Just avoid lying completely flat on the back. Let your doctor know if back sleeping is causing you problems.

When Should I Avoid Lying on My Back?

In general, avoid prolonged periods lying on your back during the second and third trimesters. It’s smart to change positions or get up and move around if you ever feel lightheaded or dizzy while lying on your back.

Specific situations when you should avoid a supine position include:

– During labor and delivery: Lying flat on your back can compress major blood vessels and affect your baby’s oxygen supply. Most doctors recommend upright positions during labor.

– During prenatal testing: Some tests like amniocentesis require lying on your back. Tell your provider right away if you feel faint. Staff can help turn you on your side.

– After an epidural: Numbness from the epidural can make it hard to notice if you’re having symptoms from lying flat. You’ll need help changing positions.

– While sleeping: Try to sleep on your side rather than your back as your pregnancy progresses. This prevents long periods of compression on major blood vessels.

What Are the Benefits of Lying on Your Side?

Sleeping or lying on your side offers important benefits during pregnancy:8

– Improves blood flow: Side positions avoid compression of major vessels so blood and oxygen flow freely.

– Supports back and neck: Your weight is evenly aligned, reducing strain on your spine.

– Comfort for mom: Side positions relieve pressure from your back and vena cava.

– Aids digestion: Lying on your left side can help digestion and relieve heartburn.

– Benefits baby: Optimal blood flow provides oxygen to your baby.

– Prepares for delivery: Side lying opens up your pelvis to aid the baby moving into position for birth.

If you experience back pain or numbness from lying primarily on one side, try alternating sides during the night. Use plenty of pillows for comfort and support.

When Can I Lie on My Stomach?

Lying on your stomach will become uncomfortable as your belly grows during pregnancy. Most experts recommend avoiding stomach sleeping by the second trimester.9

In the first trimester, take care to use a soft mattress and pillow to prevent pressure on your breasts and abdomen. Sleeping mostly face down is not advised.

Once your bump is showing, stomach sleeping can strain your neck and back. The pressure of your uterus on your abdomen can also reduce blood flow.

If you wake up on your stomach later in pregnancy, gently roll to your side and adjust pillows along your back to prevent rolling during sleep.

Tips for Safe Sleeping Positions During Pregnancy

Here are some tips for maintaining the best sleeping postures as your pregnancy progresses:

– Listen to your body for cues to change position, especially if lying on your back.

– Start side sleeping early to get used to the ideal position for late pregnancy.

– Place a pillow under your bump and between your knees for comfort and support.

– Use lots of pillows to prevent rolling onto your back or stomach.

– Try pregnancy pillows or cushions to keep you in a side posture at night.

– If you wake up on your back, roll gently onto your side before standing up.

– Do some light stretches before bed to relieve back tension from pregnancy.

– Consider sleeping propped up if you experience acid reflux at night.

– Talk to your doctor if positioning concerns are disrupting your sleep.

When to See Your Doctor

Discuss any concerns about sleeping positions with your healthcare provider, especially if:

– You feel faint, dizzy, or short of breath while lying on your back.

– You wake up frequently because of difficulty breathing or lightheadedness.

– Back sleeping is causing significant sleep issues or exhaustion.

– You think your baby’s movements have slowed from back lying.

– You have other warning signs like bleeding, cramping, or abdominal pain.

Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms and make recommendations about the best sleeping and resting positions during your third trimester.


Lying on your back for short periods is generally safe during pregnancy, but avoid prolonged back lying as you reach the third trimester. Side sleeping is ideal to optimize blood flow and comfort. Let your healthcare provider know if you have any concerns about symptoms while resting on your back. Pay attention to warning signs to reduce risks from restricted blood flow while you and your baby get the rest you need.











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