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You are not sure where you heard it, or if it’s fact or fiction. So how do you know how much to worry about it? Lets take a closer look at one pregnancy and exercise myth.

Pregnant women should avoid lying on their backs, especially when exercising.

The Australian College of Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommends that expectant mums not lie flat on their backs after the 18th week of pregnancy. This is due to the possibility of compressing a main blood vessel in your back and inhibiting the return blood flow to the thoracic cavity – and your bub.

The first thing to remember is that this is a general guideline and women and their pregnancies differ greatly. How big your baby is, and where it is sitting in your uterus, the position of your placenta, your blood pressure and level of hydration, as well as how much weight you have gained, are some of the factors that affect return blood flow whilst you are lying down. Some women may feel fine lying on their back at 25 weeks and others feel dizzy, nauseas or ‘not quite right’ at just 18 weeks.

The surface you are lying on and how long you are lying there, both play a role. The harder the surface, the more likely compression of the blood vessel is going to occur. Women who wake up and realise they have been sleeping on their back get nervous. How can you stop what you do when you are asleep? The reality is your bed is too soft a surface to cause a problem and nature will make sure you role over if your body feels it needs to.

The longer you stay in a supine position, the greater the likelihood that you will feel unwell. Some women report feeling woozy during their ultrasounds. This makes sense as the bed is hard and you are trying to stay in a certain position for the sonographer to get a good look at your baby – this can take a while when bub is not cooperating. You may be there for 20 minutes or more and are distracted by the magic on the screen, so not listening properly to your body.

If you do find you are susceptible to supine wooziness you can use the following techniques. One, limit lying on your back to 2-3 minutes at a time, then simply roll onto your left hand side. Two, roll up a small hand towel like a ‘log’ and place it under your right hip so you are slightly tilted to one side.

When it comes to exercise you do not want to be worrying about how long you have been lying flat, rolling onto your side with dumbbells in your hands, misaligning your pelvis with the towel tilt, or feeling faint in the middle of the gym or exercise class. Generally speaking exercise benches and floor mats are firm surfaces and you’ll want to stay in position until you complete your exercise, which may be longer than 2-3 minutes. Also, as your pregnancy progresses you may feel like a beetle on its back when trying to sit up from lying, even if you don’t feel sick or dizzy.

Keep it simple and change your exercise position after 18 weeks, or as soon as you feel lying flat has become uncomfortable, awkward, or makes you feel ‘not quite right’. Virtually every lying exercise has a seated, inclined, standing or side lying alternative. All you need to do is ask your class instructor or seek out a personal trainer specialising in pregnancy fitness. There is no need to risk feeling unwell. Modify your exercise routine as necessary and get on with the business of keeping fit for pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

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