Culture&Arts

Sleeping on back 'doubles' stillbirth risk in pregnancy

Sleeping on back 'doubles' stillbirth risk in pregnancy

Lead author Professor Alexander Heazell from Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, said: 'Around 11 babies are stillborn every day in the UK. The Nigerian peri-natal mortality rate for the 1999- 2003 period was 48 deaths per 1000 live births, and a study in Ibadan, Nigeria, reported a prevalence rate of stillbirths of 63/1000 total births as at November 2010. The study involving over 1,000 women found the risk doubles if women go to sleep on their backs in the third trimester, which is the last three months of the pregnancy.

Of course, mums-to-be will want to do everything in their power to try to reduce the risk of stillbirth but experts are keen to stress that the position in which women fall asleep in is most important and pregnant women should not worry if they find themselves on their back when they wake up.

Alexander Heazell, a clinical director at Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital, who lead the study, told the BBC it was much more important that women fall asleep on their side, and not be anxious if they wake up later on their back.

Pregnant women on their third trimester are now being urged to sleep on their side as a way to prevent stillbirth.

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"What I don't want is for women to wake up flat on their back and think "oh my goodness I've done something bad to my baby", Alexander Heazell, Professor at the University of Manchester, was quoted in an interview to the BBC.

If mothers followed the advice to sleep on their sides instead of their backs, has the potential to save as many as 100,000 babies a year worldwide, according to a press release from Tommy's. But new research suggests that the risk of stillbirth might be cut - dramatically - by simply making sure you fall asleep on your side. This study was carried out in collaboration with University of Auckland researchers and was co-funded by Cure Kids, New Zealand's leading child health research charity. "You can't do anything about the position that you wake up in but you can do something about the position you go to sleep".

In England, the non-profit Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre has launched a campaign in response to the new findings to encourage pregnant women to sleep on their side.

Previous research reveals babies' heart rates are less active when their mothers sleep on their backs, which may be due to the weight of the foetuses putting pressure on blood vessels and therefore restricting the infants' oxygen supply. If there's indeed a risk of stillbirth associated with sleeping on one's back, there must be a reason why.


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