Late pregnancy is a time of anticipation, excitement, and challenges. One of these challenges is that as the third trimester advances and baby grows larger, many pregnant women find it more and more difficult to sleep comfortably. There are several reasons for this, including the following:
- inability to find a comfortable sleeping position
- nasal congestion
- the need to urinate frequently
These problems may in fact begin earlier than the third trimester for some women, while others may never suffer from them all. However, for moms-to-be at any stage of their pregnancy, there are natural solutions to these problems that can aid in achieving more restful sleep.
Maintain a Comfortable Sleeping Position in Late Pregnancy
Finding – and maintaining – a comfortable sleeping position during the third trimester is often one of the biggest challenges for expectant moms in late pregnancy. Women who prefer to sleep on their stomachs will quickly find that this is simply not an option, for obvious reasons. According to Heidi Murkoff of What to Expect, sleeping on the back is also not recommended, because as the baby grows, the weight of it will put pressure on Mom’s internal organs and interfere with optimal blood circulation. Pregnant women will likely find that once the fetus is a certain size, sleeping on the back is no longer comfortable anyway.
This of course leaves only one option: sleeping on the side. Murkoff and other experts recommend favouring the left side as much as possible during the second and third trimesters, as this position is ideal for blood flow. However, it is not likely that a woman will be able to stay in the same position all night (doing so can lead to muscle aches and hip pain), and it will not harm the baby to sleep on the right side for at least part of the night.
Women who are not used to sleeping on their side may find that they need pillows to support their weight during the night. A regular pillow placed between the legs can reduce hip pain and the discomfort of having the knees rub together; some women may opt to place a regular or wedge-shaped pillow beneath their tummies for more support. Another choice is a full body pillow such as the Snoogle, which provides head-to-toe support during sleep. One issue that may arise when using a full body pillow, however, is that it is difficult to change positions in the night.
Minimize Third Trimester Congestion Without Drugs
A somewhat surprising but common discomfort during pregnancy is nasal congestion (also known as “pregnancy rhinitis”). According to Baby Center, it is caused by increased levels of estrogen and increased blood flow, which swells the nasal membranes. About 20 to 30% of pregnant women suffer from this condition, and it too can interfere with a good night’s sleep.
While some decongestants may be safe to use during late pregnancy, they are not recommended during the first trimester, and, of course, a pregnant woman should always consult her health care provider before taking any medication at any time during her pregnancy. Drug-free remedies for nasal congestion include saline drops or nasal spray (readily available at most pharmacies), nasal strips such as Breathe Right strips, steam, or the use of a humidifier.
If nasal congestion during pregnancy is due to a cold or allergies (which can worsen during pregnancy), women should consult their physicians for the best course of action. The above-mentioned drug-free remedies will also help.
Frequent Bathroom Trips During Late Pregnancy: Is There a Solution?
You know you’ve reached your third trimester when you are making frequent trips to the bathroom at night (although for many women, this issue can arise much earlier in pregnancy due to increased blood production, only to be exacerbated in the third trimester as the weight of the baby places pressure on the uterus). While it has been suggested that this is nature’s way of preparing a woman for the frequent wakenings she will experience during the first few months of her baby’s life, many women would rather have the sleep than the early training in parenthood.
Is there a solution to this common pregnancy problem? While it cannot be entirely solved, according to Baby Centre, it might help for pregnant women to drink the majority of their fluids during the day and less in the evening (a few hours before bedtime); however, it is essential that pregnant women stay hydrated and reducing overall fluid intake is not a good idea. Water is the best choice for hydration. Tea and coffee (and of course, alcohol), which have a diuretic effect, should be avoided.
While it may not be reasonable to expect to sleep perfectly peacefully every night during late pregnancy, conditions can be optimized for the best sleep possible. The third trimester should be a time when moms-to-be can focus on taking care of themselves, resting, and preparing for the big day. Women who experience more serious symptoms at any time during their pregnancy, such as severe anxiety or depression or extreme physical symptoms such as pain or bleeding, should consult their health care providers immediately.