Researchers gathered data from five studies involving more than 3,000 women in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and other countries. The studies documented the third-trimester sleeping positions of moms, 850 of whom had babies who were stillborn.
After reviewing the results, the authors concluded that women who slept on their back starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy had more than double the risk of suffering a stillbirth than women who slept on their side during the third trimester.
It didn't matter whether women slept on their right or left sides – both lowered the risk of stillbirth by about the same amount compared to back sleeping, the researchers concluded in the journal EClinicalMedicine.
The researchers accounted for other stillbirth risk factors such as drug use, smoking during pregnancy, older maternal age, and preexisting hypertension or diabetes.
It's not the first time scientists have found a link between sleep position during the third trimester and stillbirth. A 2017 study of more than 1,000 women also found an increased risk of stillbirth among those who slept on their backs in late pregnancy compared to those who slept on their sides.
Experts believe that the increased risk may be due to what happens when you sleep on your back: The weight of your uterus presses down on your spine, back, and major blood vessels, which can reduce the flow of blood to your baby.
Pregnancy comes with enough things to worry and feel guilty about. If you fall asleep on your side and wake up on your back, don't be alarmed. If that happens, just roll back on your side, lead author Lesley McCowan told the Sydney Morning Herald. You can also use pillows under your belly, between your legs, and behind your back to help make sleeping on your side during pregnancy more comfortable.
There are other, equally important steps you can take to reduce your risk of stillbirth, such as not smoking or drinking while you're pregnant, and monitoring your baby's movements. Learn more about stillbirth and how to help prevent it.
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