Pregnancy Studies

Two Important Medical Studies Add More Reasons to Left Side Sleep During Pregnancy

Many health care professionals have long recommended that pregnant women sleep on their left side but recent research adds more weight to these recommendations. A study published in 2011 in the British Medical Journal was the first to associate maternal sleep practices as a risk factor for stillbirth. A second study released this year, the Sydney Stillbirth Study, likewise identified sleep position as a risk factor for stillbirths.

In fact, pregnant women in the 2011 study who did not sleep on their left side had double the risk of having a stillborn infant, the researchers found. New Zealand researchers set out to determine whether sleep practices are associated with a risk of stillbirth and found that indeed, there appeared to be an association. The goal of both studies was to identify modifiable risk factors for late stillbirth. If sleep position had an impact on a risk of stillbirth, this was a factor that was fairly easily remedied. Researchers in the New Zealand study monitored a group of Auckland women and found that women who slept on their back or right sides appeared to be more likely to experience a late stillbirth than women who slept on their left side. The Sydney Stillbirth Study, monitored the pregnancies of 295 women. The five year study determined that women who sleep on their backs are six times more likely to have a stillborn infant. Lead researcher Dr. Adrienne Gordon from Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital noted that the research suggests that prolonged periods in this position restrict blood flow to the baby. The stillbirth rate over the last twenty years has remained largely unchanged and continues to be a significant public health issue. As reported by the British Medical Journal study, in high income countries, more than one in every 200 births resulted in a stillbirth. The death of a baby before birth is a devastating outcome for everyone involved and most mothers to be will do anything to reduce their risk of any unfavourable outcome.

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