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Sleeping On The Left Side Lessens Chances Of Stillbirth

June 15, 2011

According to a new study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), women who do not sleep on their left side during late pregnancy have double the risk of late stillbirth.

The researchers who conducted the study said women should not worry because the increased risk is very small.

The New Zealand team said a significant link was also found between sleeping regularly during the day, or sleeping longer than average at night.

Tomasina Stacey of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Auckland said that restricted blood flow to the baby when the mother lies on her back or right side for long periods may explain the link.

However, she said the findings needed to be confirmed by larger, more detailed studies before any public health advice could be given.

“It’s a new hypothesis and means we should start to look at this problem much more closely. It’s really a starting point for future research,” Stacey told Reuters.

She said if the findings are confirmed it might offer a cheap and natural way to cut the number of stillbirths.

Researchers from the World Health Organization found that over 2.6 million pregnancies a year end in stillbirth, many of them among women in poor countries. 

The new study questioned 155 women in Auckland, New Zealand who gave birth to a stillborn baby between July 2006 and June 2009 when they were at least 28 weeks pregnant. 

The women were asked detailed questions about their sleep positions, and about going to sleep and waking up before pregnancy and in the last month, week, and night before they believed their baby had died.

They were also asked about snoring, daytime sleepiness, whether they regularly slept during the day in the last month of pregnancy, the duration of their sleep at night, and how many times they got up to use the restroom at night.

Women who slept on their back or on their right side on the last night of pregnancy were also more likely to experience a late stillbirth.

Lucy Chappell, a lecturer in maternal and fetal medicine from King’s College London, said in a commentary of the study that “any simple intervention that reduces the risk of stillbirth would be extremely welcome.”

She said the results should be interpreted with caution until more work is done.

“A forceful campaign urging pregnant women to sleep on their left side is not yet warranted,” she said in her commentary.

The U.K. has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the developed world.  Every year about 4,000 babies are stillborn in the U.K. 

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