A midwife's top tips for sleep and rest during pregnancy
By Jane Wiggill, Red Nose Australia
The importance of sleep, good sleep hygiene and how this can impact on long-term health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. It is an important part of overall physical and mental health for both mother and baby. Red Nose Chief Midwife Jane explains that the first trimester of pregnancy can be a very exciting time but equally one that feels exhausting with all the changes that are happening to your body.
"Pregnancy brings fluctuating hormones with body temperature changes, nausea, the increased urgency to urinate, and trouble getting comfortable at night,” says Jane.
“Some women experience nausea and vomiting known as “morning sickness” and can find this particularly draining, especially if they wake up nauseated,” adds Jane. “You can help avoid nausea by consuming bland snacks like crackers throughout the day. This helps avoid nausea by keeping your stomach full.”
Changes in your body including tender and sore breasts can make getting comfortable difficult.
“Progesterone, the hormone responsible to maintaining the early stages of pregnancy, may make you feel more urgency to urinate more often. This can disturb sleep, if women wake frequently overnight – even in the first trimester,” Jane explains.
Jane advises pregnant women to continue to drink water during the day, but to limit the amount before bedtime.
Heartburn is also common in pregnancy and can affect your sleep and rest, explains Jane. “The growing uterus with the fetus inside impacts inner organs including the intestines and oesophageal sphincter which can lead to reflux and pain associated with it.”
“To help avoid or alleviate the symptoms of heartburn, try not to eat large quantities of food, or food that is spicy, acidic or fried. You can also adjust your sleeping position by always lying on your side, perhaps with your knees bent up and using pillows”.
If heartburn is becoming a problem for you, we recommend seeking medical advice. “You can talk to your doctor or midwife and they can help determine if it’s normal or something more serious,” explains Jane.
As your pregnancy progresses, it can become increasingly difficult to get enough sleep to feel refreshed. This is often due to the discomfort of laying down with a growing baby and uterus to accommodate as well as potential nausea and heartburn symptoms. Jane says that pregnancy pillows may help you sleep better, or you can always use a regular pillow to support your body.
“In the last trimester, Red Nose recommends that women sleep on their side,” advises Jane. “Research has shown that going to sleep on your side from 28 weeks of pregnancy halves your risk of stillbirth, compared to sleeping on your back.”
This is because lying on your back in the later stages of pregnancy puts pressure on major blood vessels, which can reduce blood flow to your uterus, and restrict your baby’s oxygen supply, Jane explains.
But, Jane says, don’t panic if you wake up and find yourself on your back. “When we sleep we do move around a lot, and that’s OK,” Jane says. “If you wake up in a position other than your side, you can just roll back on to your side. “The important thing to do is to go to sleep on your side, and this includes daytime naps as well as night time sleeps.”
“It’s important to look after yourself and your baby while you are pregnant, eating a healthy balanced diet, monitoring your baby’s movements, and getting enough sleep will help to keep you fit and well and your baby safe,” Jane advises.
Find out more about Red Nose Australia at rednose.org.au