Pregnant women urged to sleep on their sides to halve the risk of stillbirth

Posted in Birth.

Sleeping comfortably can be quite difficult when you’re heavily pregnant, but if you’re tempted to lie on your back – don’t, according to a new stillbirth prevention campaign from New Zealand. Backed by international research, it advises women to sleep on their sides from 28 weeks which they now know reduces the risk of stillbirth by a whopping 50 per cent, compared to being on your back.

So many babies lost

Tragically six babies die every day in Australia in their mother’s wombs and are stillborn, and yet in many cases, the cause is unknown with the baby appearing healthy until that point. Heartbreaking and difficult to comprehend, stillbirth is a terrible loss for any family to have to experience but a new initiative is hoping to help reduce these figures with a very simple technique. 

Sleep on Side

The Sleep on Side; Stillbirth Prevention Campaign is a new initiative from the University of Auckland, Cure Kids charity and New Zealand Ministry of Health, which simply encourages women to sleep on their sides instead of their backs, particularly in their last trimester, to reduce the chances of having a stillborn baby.

A decade in the making, Professor Lesley McCowan, head of the university’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department, has led the research for the campaign which saw two studies from New Zealand, one from Australia and another the United Kingdom, all reveal that sleeping on your back resulted in a 2.5 to six-fold increase in risk of late stillbirth, when analysing more than 800 late pregnancy stillbirth cases.

sleeping pregnant woman 2


Why the back is bad

As reported by Stuff, according to McCowan, the research found that when pregnant women lay on their backs from the 28 week mark, they saw pressure was put on major blood vessels which can reduce both the blood flow to the uterus and oxygen being supplied to the baby – both factors which can be attributed to stillbirth.

Sleeping on the side instead was revealed to be safest for expectant mums.

“We can now confirm that going to sleep on either your left or right side halves the risk of stillbirth compared with going to sleep on your back,” said McCowan. “We’re hoping this new information will have a significant impact in changing habits.”

Read more about sleep during pregnancy:

What about the left side?

Although the campaign researchers have indicated that either side of the body is fine for pregnant women to sleep on, doctors do commonly believe the left side is more beneficial for expecting mums as it puts less pressure on the uterus from the liver, and allows better blood flow to your uterus, heart, kidneys and your baby.

Back problems?

If you’re pregnant and find yourself waking up on your back though, don’t panic. Sleep on Side states that as long as you go to sleep on either side initially, then if you wake up in the night on your back simply turn to the side again and go back to sleep. This way the periods spent on your back are most likely minimal compared to your side.

Sleep easy

Who would have thought that such a simple change to your sleeping position could have such a significant impact on your baby’s health? What an incredibly important campaign and on a lighter note, don’t forget that sleeping on your side will also reduce the chances of you snoring too!

For more information on ways to help reduce the risks of stillbirth, please speak to your doctor or visit:


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