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To reduce stillbirth risk, sleep on side

To reduce stillbirth risk, sleep on side


Claudia Boyd-Barrett

posted in Pregnancy

Sleeping on your side during the third trimester of pregnancy could help you avoid the tragedy of a stillbirth, according to new research.

Experts already advise sleeping on your side during mid-to-late pregnancy because lying on your back for long periods can make you feel dizzy and interfere with the flow of blood and nutrients to your baby.

But research published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in November found that women who reported sleeping on their backs during their third trimester also had more than twice the risk of suffering a stillbirth than women who said they slept on their sides.

The research involved more than 1,000 women in maternity units across Britain who completed surveys about their sleeping practices before and during the last weeks of pregnancy. More than a quarter of the women had stillbirths in the third trimester.


Researchers were unsure why sleeping on the back appeared to increase the risk of stillbirth. They suggested it could be because, when the womb is heavy, it can press on blood vessels that carry blood and oxygen to the baby if a woman is lying on her back. Another suggestion was that lying on the back may impair breathing.

The study relied on women accurately recalling their sleeping positions, so there is room for error. However, smaller studies have made similar findings.

Stillbirth is the death of a baby in utero after 20 weeks of gestation. Stillbirth affects about 1 percent of pregnancies – that’s approximately 24,000 babies each year in the U.S., – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Stillbirth can happen as the result of birth defects, problems with the placenta or umbilical cord, or health conditions in the mother such as uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure. Sometimes, the cause of a stillbirth is unknown.

Non-profit organizations in the U.S., U.K. and Australia are partnering on a campaign to encourage women to sleep on their sides. The #SleepOnSide campaign offers this advice about sleeping on your side during pregnancy:

• Side sleeping is most important from about the 28 week of pregnancy onward.

• If needed, use a pregnancy pillow or other sleeping aid to help you stay on your side while sleeping.

• If you go to sleep on your side and wake up on your back, don’t worry. Just roll over onto your side again. Settling to sleep on your side helps you stay on your side for the deepest and often longest part of your sleep.

Had you heard about sleeping on your side during mid-to-late pregnancy? What do you think of this study’s findings?

The post To reduce stillbirth risk, sleep on side appeared first on BabyCenter Blog.

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