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What happens if you roll on your stomach while pregnant?

Sleeping on your stomach while pregnant can feel comfortable, especially if you’re used to it. But as your pregnancy progresses, sleeping face down isn’t possible or recommended. Here’s what happens if you roll onto your stomach during pregnancy and tips for getting comfortable rest.

First trimester

During the first trimester, before your belly has really popped, you may still find sleeping on your stomach fairly comfortable. At this point, there’s no major risk to the baby if you happen to briefly roll onto your stomach while sleeping.

That said, the fuller your uterus gets, the more awkward and potentially uncomfortable stomach sleeping will become. As your breasts become larger and more tender during the first trimester, you’ll likely feel uncomfortable lying face down on them.

By the end of the first trimester, you’ll probably find yourself naturally shifting to your side while sleeping as stomach sleeping stops feeling good. But again, briefly rolling onto your stomach isn’t a big concern at this point.

Second trimester

In the second trimester, around 14–28 weeks, sleeping on your stomach becomes very difficult and is not recommended. At this point:

  • Your growing belly makes stomach sleeping uncomfortable.
  • The increased weight of your uterus puts pressure on major blood vessels when you’re on your stomach.
  • Your abdomen rests right on top of your vena cava when you lie face down. This can decrease blood flow to your heart.

For these reasons, doctors recommend pregnant women avoid sleeping on their stomachs starting in the second trimester. The biggest risk is called vena cava compression syndrome.

Vena cava compression syndrome

The vena cava is a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from your lower body back to your heart. When you lie flat on your back, the uterus can compress the vena cava, restricting blood flow.

If vena cava compression is severe or prolonged, it can decrease oxygen delivery to your baby. It may also cause:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Chest pain

Lying on your left side helps take the pressure off the vena cava. So side sleeping is recommended during pregnancy instead of stomach or back sleeping.

Briefly rolling onto your stomach likely won’t restrict blood flow long enough to cause problems. But aim to change positions once you notice you’re on your stomach.

Third trimester

By the third trimester, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to roll all the way over onto your stomach during sleep. Your large, heavy belly makes it difficult and uncomfortable to lie face down.

If you do happen to roll onto your stomach in late pregnancy, the risks are greater. Compression of the vena cava is most likely during this time, since the uterus is heaviest.

Prolonged stomach sleeping in the third trimester can:

  • Reduce oxygen to the baby
  • Decrease your cardiac output
  • Lead to low blood pressure

Aim to adjust your position immediately if you ever wake up on your stomach in the third trimester. Call your healthcare provider if you have symptoms like dizziness or shortness of breath.

How to sleep comfortably while pregnant

Here are tips for getting restful sleep without sleeping on your stomach during pregnancy:

Sleep on your side

Sleeping on your left side is ideal. This takes pressure off your back and allows optimal blood flow.

Place pillows behind you and between your legs for support.

Try pregnancy pillows

Full-length pregnancy pillows allow you to rest face down while keeping pressure off your belly. They maintain alignment of your hips and spine for comfort.

Incline your mattress

Propping up your upper body and head with pillows can make it harder to roll fully onto your stomach.

Don’t use your usual pillow

Avoid stomach sleeping by ditching your normal pillow. Using a thinner pillow makes lying on your stomach less comfortable.

Tips for avoiding stomach sleeping during pregnancy
Trimester Recommendations
First trimester
  • Okay to briefly roll on stomach
  • Begin side sleeping
  • Use pregnancy pillow for support
Second trimester
  • Avoid stomach sleeping
  • Sleep on left side
  • Elevate head and shoulders
Third trimester
  • Stomach sleeping very difficult
  • Sleep on side with support
  • Use pillows between legs

When to see your doctor

Occasionally rolling onto your stomach during pregnancy is normal, especially in the first and second trimesters. But mention it to your doctor so they’re aware.

Call your doctor right away if you experience concerning symptoms after sleeping on your stomach, including:

  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your feet or ankles
  • Changes in baby’s movement

These could signal vena cava compression or other complications. Your doctor can check your symptoms and your baby’s well-being.

The bottom line

For comfort and safety, stomach sleeping isn’t recommended during pregnancy, especially after the first trimester. Side sleeping is the ideal position.

While briefly rolling onto your stomach likely won’t harm your baby, take care to adjust your position once you notice you’re on your stomach. Pregnancy pillows and support can make side sleeping easier.

Let your doctor know if you wake up on your stomach regularly or have any concerning symptoms after stomach sleeping. With the right positional adjustments, you can get restful sleep during pregnancy without lying on your stomach.