Your Sleep Position May Save Your Unborn Baby's Life

Filed under: In The News, Pregnancy Health

sleep position

Study shows pregnant women who sleep on their left side reduce the risk of stillbirths. Credit: Getty Images

The position you sleep in could be a matter of life and death for your unborn children.

Researchers in New Zealand tell U.S. News & World Report pregnant women who sleep on their left side reduce the risk of stillbirths. In fact, they warn, women who sleep in other positions sometimes double the risk of having a stillborn infant.

"This is a new and potentially exciting hypothesis, but further research is required before all women are advised to sleep on their left side in late pregnancy," lead researcher Tomasina Stacey, a graduate student in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Auckland, tells the magazine.

What's the big deal with sleeping on your left side? Experts tell U.S. News it has to do with improved blood flow to the fetus. Still, that's just a theory, which is why researchers are looking into it.

They interviewed 155 women who had a stillborn infant after at least 28 weeks of gestation and compared these women with 310 pregnant women with routine ongoing pregnancies.

U.S. News reports the women were asked about their sleep position during the last month of their pregnancy, the last week of their pregnancy and on the night they believed the stillbirth occurred.

The women also were asked about snoring, daytime sleepiness, if they regularly slept during the day during the last month of pregnancy, how much sleep they got at night and how many times a night they got up to use the toilet.

None of the the other factors provided a connection. But researchers found a link between sleep positions and the number of stillbirths. Not a big link, but a link.

Stillbirths occurred in roughly two out of every 1,000 pregnancies among women who slept on their left side -- versus approximately four out of every 1,000 pregnancies.

"This is an interesting finding, but we should be cautious about making a large jump to saying that this is the cause of stillbirth," Lucy Chappell, a clinical senior lecturer in Maternal and Fetal Medicine in the division of women's health at King's College London, tells U.S. News. "And we should not rush out to run a large campaign to say pregnant women should sleep on their left side."

Even the study's leader agrees with that.

"An observational study such as this cannot determine cause-and-effect but it has identified an area that urgently requires further exploration," Stacey tells the magazine.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.