Pregnant women who sleep on either side in the last three months of pregnancy more than halve the risk of stillbirth, according to new research.
Previous studies confirmed that the risk of stillbirth doubles if women go to sleep on their backs in the last three months of pregnancy. This latest international study was co-funded by Red Nose Australia and delved into several lots of data from across the world.
Red Nose Australia’s National Scientific Advisory Group Deputy Chair Dr Adrienne Gordon says the study has confirmed the risk of stillbirth linked to back-sleeping applies to all pregnant women in the last trimester.
“This is a huge break-through for the prevention of stillbirth, which remains one of the greatest challenges in modern obstetric practice,” Dr Gordon said.
“This study shows conclusively that something as simple as going to sleep on your side can reduce the risk,” Robin Cronin from the University of Auckland added.
What does side sleeping do?
More than 2000 Australian families are impacted by stillbirth every year – six babies every day.
“By ensuring all pregnant women in Australia, and the clinicians providing their care, are aware of this evidence, and aware of the risks, will, in turn, save so many babies’ lives,” said Red Nose Chief Executive Officer Keren Ludski.
Experts say that the increased late stillbirth risk relates to the decreased blood flow to the baby, which reduces by up to 80 per cent if a pregnant woman sleeps on her back.
“This is due to a major vessel in the mother’s abdomen, the inferior vena cava, being squashed by the womb, when a woman lies on her back,” explained Professor Lesley McCowan. “The mother’s aorta is also partly compressed when the mother lies on her back.”
The research also indicates that it’s just as safe for pregnant women to sleep on either side.
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