Research shows sleep position can help prevent stillbirth

28 Aug Research shows sleep position can help prevent stillbirth

Last year, sleep clinicians and scientists from Australia and New Zealand were joined by international speakers to share the latest advancements and innovations in the world of sleep research and clinical practice in The Sleep DownUnder 2018.

There, we had the opportunity to listen a variety of speakers in the different fields of Sleep medicine. One of the seminars related to pregnancy and sleep. They showed investigations which concluded the importance of having a correct sleep position in order to reduce the risk of stillbirth during the pregnancy. Also, they showed a campaign from in Australia and New Zealand called “Sleep on side, when baby’s inside”.

In Australia, more than 2000 babies are stillborn every year; 6 babies every day. Australia lags behind other developed countries with these numbers. If stillbirth rates in Australia were reduced to equal that of the best performing countries, 200 babies each year in Australia would be saved.

New research has identified something relatively simple, and something every pregnant woman needs to know: going to sleep on your side in the third trimester reduces your risk of stillbirth.


About the Campaign

‘Sleep on Side; Stillbirth Prevention Campaign’ is a public health messaging campaign by the University of Auckland, Cure Kids and the Ministry of Health, that is designed to provide pregnant women with vital information that may reduce the risk of stillbirth in the late stages of pregnancy.

Professor Lesley McCowan, Head of The University of Auckland’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and her team of New Zealand researchers, have been at the forefront of international research looking at risk factors for stillbirth for nearly 10 years. The conclusion from four studies – two by Professor McCowan in New Zealand, one in Australia and one from the UK – which analysed more than 800 late pregnancy stillbirth cases, reveals a 2.5 to 6-fold increase in the risk of late stillbirth if women go to sleep lying on their back.

McCowan explained that research had found that pregnant women lying on their backs from the 28-week-point saw pressure put on major blood vessels which can reduce blood flow to the womb and oxygen supply to the baby. “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. We’re hoping this new information will have a significant impact in changing habits,” McCowan said.

It’s estimated that if pregnant women go to sleep on their side, left or right, in their third trimester there would be a 10 per cent decrease in late stillbirths nationally. Internationally, this change in sleeping position has the potential to save up to 100,000 babies a year.

“The campaign is just highlighting that these things happen and you can’t be worried about scaring pregnant women, the more knowledge you have, the more you can do to prevent things going wrong”, says Catherine Maetzig who went through the ultimate heartbreak of losing a child. She is using her experience to help educate others as part of a new campaign to help prevent stillbirths.

Here is the brochure of the campaign