Why You Should Sleep on Your Side When Your Baby’s Inside
Incredible research shows that sleeping on your side from 28 weeks of pregnancy halves the risk of a stillbirth. Learn more here from the experts
5 min read
New evidence has the potential to save the lives of unborn babies in New Zealand by encouraging mums-to-be to sleep on their side in their third trimester. The research shows this can reduce stillbirths by 10%
We’ve been working with the University of Auckland and the Ministry of Heath on our ‘Sleep on Side; Stillbirth Prevention Campaign’ – we are advising expectant mums to sleep on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy to significantly reduce the chance of a stillbirth.
Professor Lesley McCowan is Head of the University of Auckland’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department and she says; “While it’s been common for women to be advised to sleep on their side when pregnant, a decade of research carried out in four countries across different ethnicities, has now confirmed, the very consistent association between going-to-sleep position and stillbirth”.
Each year, in New Zealand, approximately 160 babies are stillborn in the last three months of pregnancy. It’s estimated that if all pregnant women go to sleep on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy, there would be a 10 percent decrease in late stillbirths nationally. Internationally, this change in sleeping position has the potential to save up to 100,000 babies a year.
Lying on your back from 28 weeks presses on major blood vessels which can reduce blood flow to the womb and oxygen supply to the baby. Approximately 1 in 20 women in New Zealand go to sleep on their back in the late stages of pregnancy. But there is an increased risk of stillbirth for such women and we want to encourage a change in the sleeping position from 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Your questions about sleeping on your side
Why should I go to sleep on my side?
Lying on your back in the last three months of pregnancy (from 28 weeks) presses on major blood vessels which can reduce blood flow to your womb and oxygen supply to your baby.
Is it best to go to sleep on my left or right side?
You can settle to sleep on either the left or the right side – any side is good from 28 weeks of pregnancy.
But what if I feel more comfortable going to sleep on my back?
Going to sleep on your back is not best for baby after 28 weeks of pregnancy. Most women find side sleeping is more comfortable in pregnancy, especially in the last three months.
What if I wake up on my back?
It’s normal to change position during sleep and many pregnant women wake up on their back. The important thing is to start every sleep (daytime naps and going to bed at night) lying on your side and settle back to sleep on your side if you wake up.
What is the risk of stillbirth if I go to sleep on my back?
Stillbirth in the last three months of pregnancy affects about one in every 500 babies. However, research has confirmed that going to sleep on your side halves your risk of stillbirth compared with sleeping on your back.
The impact of stillbirths
Losing an unborn baby after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is classified as a stillbirth.
Losing an unborn baby at or after 28 weeks of pregnancy is classified as a late stillbirth.
Currently, in New Zealand, about 1 in every 200 women will have a stillbirth after 20 weeks and one in 500 women will have a stillbirth at or after 28 weeks (there’s been a decline in stillbirth after 28 weeks’ in recent years).
It’s estimated 2.64 million babies die before birth globally each year.
Death of an unborn baby is a major public health problem with long-term consequences for families and is one of the most common causes of death in children.
Stillbirth is one of the few remaining avoidable maternal and child health problems and is now approximately twice as common as neonatal death in the first month after birth.
Prevention of stillbirth is a challenge in modern obstetric practice, despite great advances in the care of women and their babies in the past century.
The psychosocial impacts on women, families, caregivers and communities, and wide-ranging economic impact on health systems and society, are far-reaching.
Other factors that contribute to a healthy pregnancy
Avoiding alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and taking drugs for anything other than health reasons (and be sure that any medicine you take for your health is safe in pregnancy)
Being active and eating a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy weight
Reducing stress and getting enough sleep.