Shortly after I announced I was pregnant and it started to trickle through the grapevine at work, I had a quick chat with one of my coworkers, Crocker, who is entrenched in a yearlong series for the paper on infant mortality.
Side note: This reminds me that last winter when I was on the team helping to develop the series’ focus and online presence, he jokingly asked me if I planned on getting pregnant so he could follow my pregnancy as a case study of some sort. At the time, we had no immediate plans, but obviously things changed! haha.
Anyway, Crocker mentioned that he had just written a blog post about how it’s best for pregnant women to sleep on their left side. It helps maximize blood flow to the uterus, he said. Immediately I took stock of my usual sleeping position and freaked out. I normally sleep on my right! Crisis!
This is easily remedied though. I decided to give left-side sleeping a shot.
The only problem was that I like snuggling up to Peter and pretty much using him as a pillow when I sleep, so in order for me to do that and sleep on my left, we would have to switch sides of the bed. No biggie, right?
Um, whoa. Switching sides of the bed ended up being an ordeal for me. I would wake up in the middle of the night and be completely confused as to where I was. I also was waking up to go to the bathroom, which is closer to my usual side of the bed, so the new arrangement required me stumbling around the bed to get to the bathroom.
I continued to persevere though. Surely I could adapt to this new side of the bed. And for a while it did get easier. I would awake several times during the night, but don’t all pregnant women? I was determined to do whatever was best for the baby.
Problems started to arise again when I kept hearing from other pregnant bloggers about how it’s unsafe to lie on your back while pregnant. Suddenly the forbidden back sleeping position, which had never been comfortable for me in the past, seemed more appealing than ever. I had it in my mind that right was bad, so when left wasn’t comfortable I would find myself on my back. Then I would wake up, promptly freak out that I was going to induce labor by lying on my back, attempt to fall asleep on my left, not be able to, so eventually give up and turn onto my right or repeat the process and get an extremely restless night of sleep worrying that I was hurting the baby.
Finally I decided to ask my doctor about it. She immediately told me to sleep however I’m comfortable. The “don’t lie on your back” rule, she said, only applies to women who are full term. When I seemed skeptical, she made it abundantly clear by telling me all the studies on the subject involved full-term pregnancies, and if I was comfortable on my back then that meant the baby was fine. Basically, if your uterus isn’t getting enough blood, that means your head isn’t either. So you’ll know. And if you feel lightheaded, then you should change positions. The “sleep on your left” rule, she said, is not a big deal. Yes, your left side theoretically aligns your body the best for bloodflow to the uterus, but that doesn’t mean your baby will suffer if you sleep on your right.
Phew! That night, Peter and I switched back to our normal sides of the bed, and all was right with the world again. I got a restful night’s sleep, and learned that you can sleep through the night while pregnant.
This shows how the mental can really affect the physical. Just the thought that I was hurting the baby by sleeping a certain way ended up making me not comfortable enough to sleep at all. I’m so glad my doctor was able to put to rest (pun intended) my fears.