Poor pregnancy sleep can impact unborn baby: study

Pregnant mum sleeping napping on couch

Tossing, turning and tuning into Netflix at all hours of the night is part and parcel of pregnancy insomnia and a new Australian study has revealed it’s not just the health of mum-to-be that’s impacted.

If you ever needed an excuse for guilt-free pregnancy napping, this is it.

Lack of sleep in pregnancy impacts baby

Pregnancy Insomnia

University of South Australia research has found maternal sleep apnea, sleep duration, sleep quality, and sleep position may impact birth weight and fetal growth, and increase the risk of pre-term delivery and even stillbirth.

“Adults sleep for a third of their lives, so too an unborn baby, is asleep for a third of their gestation, so it makes sense that maternal sleep could have an impact the health of the fetus,” said UniSA’s Associate Professor Jane Warland. “We already know that if a pregnant mother sleeps on her back, it can negatively impact the unborn baby, probably by reducing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the placenta.

“But across these studies we also found consistencies among mothers suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, short sleeps, and poor quality sleep which could increase the likelihood of pre-term birth, and perhaps even stillbirth. The most significant finding suggested a relationship between premature birth and maternal sleep apnea, with four out of the five larger studies showing a clear connection between the two.”

Working to reduce stillbirth

Side sleeping when pregnant reduces stillborn risk

Assoc Prof Warland says preventing stillbirth and reducing fetal risks are at the forefront of modern maternity care.

“In Australia, the rate of stillbirth is double that of our national road toll. This hasn’t changed in 20 years and despite the prevalence of stillbirth, in up to 40 per cent of cases, the cause of death remains unknown. By investigating this important field of study we’re hoping to provide clinicians and families with important information that may safeguard the health and well-being of an unborn baby and reduce the incidence of poor fetal outcomes.”

If you’re keen to catch your full 40 winks in pregnancy, make sure you read our sleep expert’s guide to beating pregnancy insomnia.

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