Women advised to sleep on side to help prevent stillbirth

Women advised to sleep on side to help prevent stillbirth

A new study is warning women to avoid sleeping on their backs late in their pregnancy.

-If you wake up for any reason during the night, check your position and go back to sleep on your side.

Gordon A1, Raynes-Greenow C, Bond D et al, 2015, Sleep position, fetal growth restriction, and late-pregnancy stillbirth: the Sydney stillbirth study. One woman who had a stillbirth and then had a subsequently successful pregnancy and birth told The BBC that was relieved to have access to the new information in this study.

Research from Tommy's and the NHS has found that how a pregnant woman sleeps can be an important factor in preventing stillbirth.

And if you have been sleeping on your back, Heazell says there is no need to alert your doctor right away.

Why is sleeping on your side better?

This is thought to be due to lower oxygen levels in the baby when the mother lies on her back.

"What I don't want is for women to wake up flat on their back and think "oh my goodness I've done something bad to my baby", Alexander Heazell, Professor at the University of Manchester, was quoted in an interview to the BBC.

McCowan LME, Thompson JMD, Cronin RS et al, 2017, Going to sleep in the supine position is a modifiable risk factor for late pregnancy stillbirth; Findings from the New Zealand multicentre stillbirth case-control study.

Dr Stacey was one of the first academics to highlight the association between sleep position and the increased risk of stillbirth in a paper that was published in The BMJ in 2011. Also, a woman may experience disturbed breathing patterns when she is asleep on her back. "This new research is extremely welcome as a significant number of stillbirths remain unexplained, particularly those in late pregnancy", said Edward Morris, VicePresident for Clinical Quality at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, in a press release from Tommy's.

The lead researcher, Alexander Heazelle, clinical director at Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St. Mary's Hospital in Manchester, said women should try to fall asleep on their side and not worry too much if they wake up on their back - because the position they fall asleep often is the position they will sleep longest in.

The charity has put together some suggestions to help women to go to sleep on their side including putting pillows behind you to prevent falling on your back, checking your position if you wake in the night and then going back to sleep on your side, and napping on your side as well. This addition to current knowledge is very welcome. "It is a simple change that can make a difference".

The study also found stillbirths are also more likely to occur if women sleep less than 5.5 hours the night before, get up in the night to use the toilet or have a nap every day.

When such women sleep on their backs, their babies are less active than when they nod off on their side. If you happen to roll on your back accidentally during sleeping, your baby won't be permanently hurt.

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