Sleeping On Back Can Up Stillbirth Risk

Henrietta Strickland
November 21, 2017

If mothers followed the advice to sleep on their sides instead of their backs, has the potential to save as many as 100,000 babies a year worldwide, according to a press release from Tommy's.

Britain has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world with one in every 225 babies born dead.

Of course, mums-to-be will want to do everything in their power to try to reduce the risk of stillbirth but experts are keen to stress that the position in which women fall asleep in is most important and pregnant women should not worry if they find themselves on their back when they wake up.

WOMEN who sleep on their backs in the last three months of pregnancy are more than twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth as those who sleep on their side, according to a new report.

In England, the non-profit Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre has launched a campaign in response to the new findings to encourage pregnant women to sleep on their side.

Earlier this year, the New Zealand Multi-Centre Stillbirth Study, led by Professor Lesley McCowan, Head of the University's Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, published their results that found going to sleep on your back is associated with a 3.7-fold increase in overall risk of late stillbirth, independent of other common stillbirth risk factors.

"This study suggests that 3.7 percent of stillbirths after 28 weeks of pregnancy were linked with going to sleep lying on the back", the team writes in the paper.

Since the study was a prospective investigation and didn't test any potential causes for the link, it's not entirely clear why that might be the case, but the team has some ideas. "These include a reduction in the mother's cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute), a reduced blood flow to the uterus, and lower oxygen levels in the baby".

Despite being unable to explain the precise mechanism, the team thinks the data is enough to recommend sleeping on the side - especially because it's not the kind of thing we can ethically or practically test with experiments.

If the women wake up on their backs in the night they should just roll back on to their sides, the charity says.

A stillbirth is a worst nightmare for millions of expectant parents.

University of Auckland research that showed that women who go to sleep on their side have a lower risk of a still birth has been repeated in the United Kingdom with similar results.

He said: "Around 11 babies are stillborn every day in the UK".

"Parents want to know why their baby has died, whether it might happen again if they try for another baby and what they can do to avoid further stillbirth".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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