During pregnancy, you may find yourself struggling each night to find a comfortable position or get a full night’s sleep. Unfortunately, your regular sleeping habits may no longer work for you during pregnancy.

There are a number of reasons for this new discomfort, but there are some tips that you can help you understand what your body might be experiencing and tips to try that may help you get your much-needed rest.

Sleep Issues Per Trimester

Pregnancy can be challenging as your body goes through drastic changes. For most women, new problems arise with each trimester when it comes to their sleep. It is common for women to have a harder time getting a full night’s rest the further along that they are in their pregnancy. Here’s a simple breakdown of common causes of bad sleep that you might experience with each trimester:

First trimester: months 1-3

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Breast and general body tenderness
  • Frequent urination
  • Morning sickness
  • Mood swings

Second trimester: months 4-6

  • Acid reflux
  • Nasal congestion
  • Vivid dreams and nightmares

Third trimester: months 7-9

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Frequent urination
  • Strain on hips, shoulders, and back
  • Pain around the pelvic area

Treatment

Treatment for sleep problems during pregnancy is complicated by the fact that drug therapy can harm a developing fetus. For example, most drugs that are used to treat insomnia carry some risk and are typically not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. However, by practicing good sleep hygiene, most women are able to manage pregnancy-related insomnia.

Most medications for RLS also pose risks to a developing fetus. Women most at risk for developing RLS during pregnancy are those with low levels of dietary folate and/or iron. This should be considered even before getting pregnant. Prenatal vitamins that include folate and iron supplements will help reduce RLS symptoms during pregnancy, but folate is better absorbed in foods (whole grains, cereals, and breads than it is in pill supplements; coffee decreases absorption and vitamin C increases absorption of folate from foods.

Overweight or obese women who become pregnant, women who gain excessive weight and women who report snoring should be evaluated for sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a safe and effective treatment for sleep apnea during pregnancy. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. There is no over-the-counter remedy for pregnant women who experience frequent nighttime urination but see “Coping” for what you can do to minimize the problem.

Finally…

The best sleep position during pregnancy is sleeping on your side. The best option is to sleep on your left side because it will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. Try keeping your legs and knees bent, and put a pillow between your legs.

The good news about most of the sleep problems experienced by pregnant women is that they tend to go away once the baby is born, but women should still pay close attention to their sleep after they give birth as new sleep problems may arise. We are here to help! Contact us if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

(Some information provided by the National Sleep Foundation).