One in 225 pregnancies in the UK sadly ends in stillbirth, a statistic that many charities are trying to lower through new research studies. It was not until 2011 that a connection between sleeping position and stillbirth was established, which has led to a large scale investigation by the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS) involving 1000 pregnancies.
Results from this study confirmed that expectant mothers that sleep on their back may be TWICE as likely to suffer a stillbirth. These significant findings have resulted in the Sleep On Side campaign by Tommy’s charity to make more women aware of this risk.
If all pregnant women slept on their side during their last trimester, MiNESS predicts that stillbirth will decrease by 3.7%. That’s 130 babies in the UK, and 100,000 babies’ lives worldwide!
Why would sleeping on my back cause a stillbirth?
The exact reasoning behind this is not clear. The main theory is that the weight of the baby and uterus compresses major vessels to the placenta, restricting oxygen to the baby.
What should I do?
Once you have reached your third trimester (28 weeks), make sure whether you are having a nap or going to sleep for the night that you are on your side. Do not panic if you wake up on your back! We tend to stay in the position we fall asleep in the longest, so is unlikely you have been on your back for long.
Top tip: Put pillows behind your back to prevent turning over
Left or right side?
Historically mothers have been advised to favour their left side to prevent compression of major blood vessels. There is however no strong evidence that suggests sleeping on the left or right is more risky. We recommend you do what is more comfortable for you.
I can’t get comfortable!
Many women experience pain during their pregnancy that can make sleeping difficult or uncomfortable. It is important you don’t suffer during your pregnancy and is unnecessary despite popular belief. At Lotus Osteopathy we take expert care of our pregnant patients to keep them pain free and able to sleep peacefully, including on their sides! To book an appointment click here.
Please don’t feel alarmed or concerned by the statistics related to stillbirth. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies have a very low risk and a stress free pregnancy is better for mum and baby!
Listed below are all relevant studies;
Heazell A, Li M, Budd J et al, 2017, Going-to-sleep supine is a modifiable risk factor for late stillbirth – findings from the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Case-Control Study
Stacey T, Thompson JM, Mitchell EA et al, 2011, Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study. BMJ. 2011 Jun 14;342:d3403.
Gordon A1, Raynes-Greenow C, Bond D et al, 2015, Sleep position, fetal growth restriction, and late-pregnancy stillbirth: the Sydney stillbirth study. Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Feb;125(2):347-55.
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.