Supine Hypotensive What?!?!

That sounds like a really scary condition that you don’t want to get, right?  Well, actually it’s really a scary sounding name for a much less complicated issue during pregnancy.

As the size of the growing baby increases, the baby may have enough weight to compress the vena cava (the vein that returns blood to the heart) when the mother is lying on her back.  This usually starts sometime between 20-25 weeks  and most women will describe the symptoms as dizzy  and lightheadedness or ‘pins and needles’ in the legs.

As is true in many prenatal situations, maternal symptoms always precede fetal distress.  This basically means that the pregnant woman is going to feel the pins and needles and know it is time to change positions.

So, Should I not exercise flat on my back?The ACOG recommends limiting time pregnant women spend on their back to 2 minutes.  So, that’s enough time to get in one set of ab work, or chest stretches.  But remember 2 things;

  1. Try side-lying exercises as an alternative to flat on your back

    Supine Hypostensive Syndrome does not affect all pregnant women– some women never feel these symptoms and therefore are probably safe to continuing exercising (or sleeping) on their backs

  2. There are MANY alternative ways to do any exercise that is traditionally done on your back– By elevating your body to about a 30-degree angle, you can avoid any complications.  Doing your abdominal work on a stability ball or on all fours, completely alleviates any blood supply concerns (remember this video).  Try a seated chest press machine instead of a bench press or do the Pilates leg series side lying instead of flat.

I woke up on my back last night, should I be concerned?

Women’s bodies are designed to protect the growing baby.  If, in the middle of the night, you found you had been sleeping on your back, waking up was probably your body’s way of telling you it was time to change positions.  If you are a dedicated back sleeper, try putting one of your baby-to-be’s blankets to use early.  Fold it, and place it under one hip so you can lay on your back, but with your body slightly angled to one side, this is usually enough to keep the direct pressure off your vena cava.

Of course, if any symptoms during pregnancy are concerning to you or seem abnormal, always trust your gut (that’s your mother’s intuition starting!) and call you doctor.

This is part 3 in our series on Prenatal Fitness Questions Answered! If you missed part 1 or 2 click the question below to read the answers. And stay tuned for our final installment in this series on my favorite prenatal fitness topic- Relaxin!

In my many years of working with pregnant woman as a personal trainer and prenatal fitness expert, 4 questions come up over and over again.

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions

  1. Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2. Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3. I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4. My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?- COMING SOON
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