Stillbirth is a tragedy for parents and families and has enormous impacts on parents and their wider family and friends, as well as on health care providers. Sadly many stillbirths are not preventable with families and health care providers often unable to determine their cause. Researchers are working hard to find out how stillbirth can be prevented and there is still a lot still to learn.
The latest research from Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth shows that going-to-sleep on your side from 28 weeks of pregnancy can halve your risk of stillbirth, compared to going-to-sleep on your back. Other factors that are known to help reduce the risk of stillbirth are: not smoking, getting to know the pattern of your baby’s movements, monitoring your baby’s growth and the timing of birth.
During pregnancy, particularly later pregnancy, lying on your back puts pressure on major blood vessels which can reduce blood flow to your womb and oxygen supply to your baby. Stillbirth after 28 weeks 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.
It doesn’t matter which side you sleep on, the left or the right side – either side is fine. But, even if you prefer it, going to sleep on your back is not best for baby after 28 weeks of pregnancy. It’s normal to change position during sleep and many pregnant women, even if they fell asleep on their side, may wake up on their back. That’s OK! The important thing is to start every sleep lying on your side (both for daytime naps and at night). When you wake up, if you’re on your back, just roll over and return to sleeping on your side.
If you need support, you can visit www.sands.org.au or call 1300 072 637 (24/7).
References: Silver 2019