Side Lying Comfort

As pregnancy goes on most woman experience difficult sleeping due to either acid reflux or hip and shoulder pain while sleeping on their sides. It’s important to get good sleep during pregnancy because fatigue can put you at risk for complications.


Acid reflux, or GERD (Gastroesophogial Reflux Disease) is common during pregnancy because of a slowing of the muscles that control swallowing. Often the acid reflux is worst at night, after dinner,when you are trying to find an agreeable position. A supported reclined position can be a comfortable position to sleep in. One of the most critical aspects of finding a safe and comfortable position is ensuring the angle of your body. A 45 degree angle is ideal because it ensures the weight of the baby is not on your Vena Cava reducing blood flow to the baby and placenta.

Generally if your position is causing the baby stress your body will wake yourself up. Many women are viscerally aware when the uterus is pressing on their vein so use your awareness and trust your intuition when getting settled.

Many women find the best compromise for them is a combination face down/side laying position with a small pillow under their belly similar but not exactly like the picture at the right.


Sleeping on your left side is the recommended safest position during the second and third trimesters because it allows the most blood flow and nutrients to get to the placenta and the baby. However, this position puts a lot of pressure on your shoulder and hip and can result in painful aches. This results in a lot of restless nights changing positions and moving pillows. Regular massage will help to relieve some aches and can relax you into peaceful sleep.

I invested in an OakWorks Side Laying Positioning System for maximum comfort during prenatal massage. Most of the massage is done in the side laying position but there is a torso pillow that takes the pressure off of your shoulders and hips while supporting your head and keeping your top leg just above hip height. There is also a little wedge pillow to support your belly. Depending on your needs during the massage we may move you to the supported reclined position to work on your neck or give a gentle belly massage.


A number of clients wish they had pillows this comfortable for every night sleeping. I am considering buying a second set to rent to clients for the final months of their pregnancy. Please let me know if this is something you might be interested in.

Author: Saralynn Finn, CMT & Doula

I have lived and worked in 14 states, they all have their beauty. Though my travels I've learned and worked at all different things, my dedication to service is the thread that ties it all together. I am thrilled to be settling into Santa Barbara.

2 thoughts on “Side Lying Comfort”

  1. Hi–I just bought the Oakworks Side Lying today but had a question for you. Do you cover the pads with a sheet so the client’s bare skin isn’t directly on them? If so, what do you do when it’s time to have the client flip to the other side? I’m worried about how awkward it’s going to be trying to move all those pads around–especially if they are covered by a sheet. Thanks for any help!
    p.s. I’m also a birth and postpartum doula and massage therapist 🙂

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Thanks for posting and asking, it’s awesome to learn about other MT/Doulas! I do cover the pads, and yes it is somewhat awkward to move the pads around. Luckily most pregnant women are used to the rigamarole of adjusting and finding the goldilocks pillow situation. The Oakworks pillows make the process much easier. This is how I make up the table for a pregnancy massage.
      1- Fitting sheet
      2- Flat sheet
      3- Place the Head pillow and Chest cushion where you want them to be on the table.
      4- Fold the flat sheet over the cushions using your hand to push the sheet into the shoulder space
      5- Use a king size pillow case for the leg cushion. I usually have women start on their right sides since the recommendation to lay on your left side makes many women more sore on the left. I place the leg pillow approximately where it should be for the height of the client.
      6- Use a regular size pillow case for the upper arm pillow and place it on the chest pillow
      7 Flat sheet and blanket turned down.

      When clients need to turn over all I have to move is the upper arm pillow and the leg pillow. I take the upper arm pillow, then I move the leg pillow to the other side of the table, have them turn, and given them back the upper arm pillow. If clients need the wedge I usually slide it under the folded flat sheet, place the clients hand on the wedge and have them adjust it toi where they need it.

      If I choose to do a reclined position, I almost always do it at the end of the massage. I don’t do it just as pictured from Oakworks. I remove the upper arm pillow, then the leg pillow, I have the client move on to her back and slide slightly down, I put the leg pillow transverse under her knees and tilt her hips to the left, I remove the head pillow from the velcro, turn it over. This is the tricky part, I have the woman get up on her elbows or lift herself off the chest pillow as much as possible and quickly slide the head pillow under, then I use the upper arm pillow as cervical and thoracic support.

      I hope this has made sense! The kit comes with a DVD instructional video. Also, Oakworks has a youtube channel. Good Luck!

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