Pregnancy health: This very simple action could almost half the risk of stillbirth
When it comes to sleep positions deemed better for pregnant women, especially towards the end of their pregnancies, the advice has long been that sleeping on your side is better.
However, just how important this practise really is was only recently revealed after some UK researchers conducted the largest study of its kind on just this.
And what they found was quite significant. In fact, according to the study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, how you fall asleep during late pregnancy can actually halve the risk of stillbirth.
Approximately one in 225 pregnancies in the U.K. ends in stillbirth, but according to these latest figures, the researchers estimate that about 130 babies' lives in the U.K. (where the study was conducted) could be saved every year if women avoided sleeping on their backs.
The MiNESS study showed that out of more than 1,000 women, those who slept on their back in the last three months of pregnancy had at least twice the risk of stillbirth compared to those who slept on their left side. Importantly, factors such as the duration of pregnancy after 28 weeks, the size of the baby or the mother's weight did not affect the link between their sleep position and stillbirth rates.
As for why this position is deemed riskier in terms of the baby's health, researchers speculate it could be because when a woman is lying flat on her back, the size of the baby and the uterus can compress the blood vessels responsible for sending blood to the uterus, potentially restricting blood flow and oxygen to the baby.
Another study published in the Journal of Physiology recently looked at unborn babies and women's sleep positions overnight,, and showed that fetuses were only in an active state when their mothers were sleeping on their sides.
But experts are also keen to point out that pregnant women shouldn't stress too much if they have fallen alseep on their side, but wake up on their backs.
"What I don't want is for women to wake up flat on their back and think, 'Oh my goodness, I've done something awful to my baby,'" explains Alexander Heazell, clinical director at the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Center in Manchester to the BBC.
Instead, he suggests, women should pay more attention to position they fall asleep in, as this is the position people tend to sleep in longer than any other.
If you are pregnant and worried about rolling onto your back while you are asleep, a pregnancy pillow to prop you up could be of good help, making sure you stay sleeping on your side for the night.