To Sleep … Perchance to Roll Over On My Back and Kill My Unborn Child

I have not been sleeping well.  Somewhere, in one of my several pregnancy books, it said that if you lay on your back after week 16 (although I swear another one said 20 weeks?), your heavy uterus can cut off the blood supply in your vena cava and thus starve you and the fetus of oxygen.  The simple solution?  Do not lie on your back after 16 weeks.

Except that I really like to sleep on my back. 

I especially want to sleep on my back now that someone has told me that I can’t sleep on my back, because now it is all I think about when falling asleep. 

The other problem is that I now have round ligament pain (RLP) and the same stupid books suggest that if you have this when laying on your side, you should “switch positions.”  Well, duh.  Let’s see: I can’t sleep on my stomach, flippping to the other side will just make that side hurt, and I can’t sleep on my back because I could kill my unborn child.  Any more brilliant suggestions? 

My conscious mind fights the urge to lie on my back, but as soon as I drift off to sleep, I must flop right over, because for the past several nights I have been jolted out of a deep sleep when I realized I WAS ON MY BACK AND THEREFORE ENDANGERING WEE-BEASTIE’S VERY EXISTENCE.  I would roll to the other side, fall asleep again, only to have the whole cycle repeat itself a few hours later. 

I also thought that round ligament pain would be more of an ache.  WRONG.  It is quite distinctly pain, and feels like my uterus is trying to rip out of my abdomen and move to a new zip code.  

I sound like a bitchy pregnant woman. 




February 7, 2008. Pregnancy #3.


  1. Sam replied:

    Prop pillows around you to keep you from rolling over. Pretend that Hugh Laurie is in the room… That’s all I’ve got, sorry!

  2. Caro replied:

    I tend to just sleep however I’m comfortable without worrying about it too much. That said, I’m not comfortable on my back any more.

  3. K @ ourboxofrain replied:

    Several women I know who have faced the same dilemma have opted to sleep semi-upright — on the back but with several pillows beneath the head and upper back to keep the pressure off. I hope you can find some relief!

  4. Farah replied:

    Yes as someone stated – the trick is a sea of pillows! Congrats on being a bitcy pregnanct woman!

  5. Sara replied:

    Trust me, you’ll know when not to sleep on your back anymore. The books offer guidelines, but if the circulation is being compromised, you can totally tell. I was in my third trimester and had an ultrasound where they had me flat on my back and I almost passed out. Most OBs will even recommend that you just sleep however your comfortable. But the suggestion of propping with pillows is also a good compromise for being on the back but not flat enough to hurt anyone.

  6. Rachel replied:

    I slept on my back most of my pregnancy. I too used pillows to keep me more upright. My OB told me to try not to sleep on my back but I always ended up on it anyway.

    As far as the round ligament pain, I was certain several times that I must be in premature labor. I called the OB many times to make sure it was normal. Sorry you have to experience that pain too.

  7. T. replied:

    The only reason not to sleep on your back is that you don’t want your heavy uterus to press down on your vena cava. If your uterus is not yet heavy enough to compress your vena cava, that’s fine–once it is heavy enough to do that, believe me, you’ll know. (You’ll wake up feeling faint and awful, and a few times of that, and your body will recondition itself to sleep on its side.)

    If you sleep on your back and feel fine for now, go ahead and enjoy it! It’s not for long.

  8. Ms. Planner replied:

    I HATE sleeping on my left side (which is the side my books tell you to sleep on to avoid the vena cava issue) and even though I prop pillows on every side of my body, I still wake to find myself on my back on top of the pillow barricades. Sigh. Oh, and I have two books that say this is not an issue until ~22 weeks – so maybe you have some time.

    Thanks to the commenters regarding the pillow prop suggestion. I am going to try that route.

  9. babystep replied:

    You are a bitchy, FUNNY pregnant woman. Maybe you should sleep standing up!

  10. Wendy replied:

    I too slept on my back and on my right side when you are supposed to sleep on your left side. I too would wake up and be convinced I had caused something bad to happen. Geez, nothing like giving you something else to worry about eh?

  11. Muriel replied:

    Okay girl, I have read your blog for a long long time just never commented. Congratulations on being preggers. You crack me up. I think sleeping on your back is fine until it becomes uncomfortable for you. I am going to ask my doctor when I go tomorrow. I am expecting in August.

  12. Aurelia replied:

    You won’t just feel faint, you’ll feel nauseated and your body will roll over during pg. so don’t worry too much about it, just sleep.

  13. Artblog replied:

    Oooh, sounds like me 🙂


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