Pregnant Women Beware! Sleeping On Back In Pregnancy Linked To Increased Stillbirth Risk


Pregnant women are usually overburdened with information about what and what not to do during pregnancy.

So, even something as natural as sleeping comes with pregnancy guidelines. After 16 weeks of pregnancy, experts advise women to not sleep on their backs, but rather should lie on their sides, ideally the left side.

This is because after the first trimester of pregnancy, sleeping on the left side will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and the baby.

Sleeping on the back can result in the abdomen resting on the intestines and major blood vessels (the aorta and vena cava). This can cause problems with backaches, breathing, digestive system, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure and decrease in circulation to a pregnant woman's heart and her baby.

Now a recently published study suggests that, pregnant women who sleep on their backs are at greater risk of having a stillbirth.

The study was conducted in Ghana where between 20 and 50 of every 1,000 babies are stillborn, compared with just 3.5 per 1,000 in the UK.

Researchers found that mothers-to-be in Ghana who slept on their back were five times more likely to have a baby with a low birth weight, and for some women this resulted in a stillbirth.

The study's senior author, Louise O'Brien, from the University of Michigan, said:

‘If maternal sleep position does play a role in stillbirth, encouraging pregnant women everywhere not to sleep on their back is a simple approach that may improve pregnancy outcomes.


‘In Ghana, inexpensive interventions are urgently needed to improve pregnancy outcomes.


‘This is a behaviour that can be modified - encouraging women to avoid sleeping on their back would be a low-cost method to reduce stillbirths in Ghana and other low-income countries.


‘The data in this study suggests that more than one-quarter of stillbirths might be avoided by altering maternal sleep position.’

This previous study suggests a new one released last week that shows that; Women who sleep on their backs in the later months of pregnancy may have a relatively higher risk of stillbirth if they already have other risk factors.

Experts believe that, lying on the back can exacerbate sleep apnea, where breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night, and if a foetus is already vulnerable, that reduced oxygen flow could conceivably boost the odds of stillbirth.