Sleeping On Your Back During Pregnancy Could Double Your Stillbirth Risk

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Anyone who has ever been pregnant knows that it doesn’t take long before it becomes basically impossible to sleep comfortably. Between the growing belly, and the need to get up to pee about a hundred times a night, pregnancy isn’t usually a time of restful slumber. As a full-time stomach sleeper as a non-pregnant person, I quickly had to figure out a new sleeping position when I became pregnant with twins, and with a little help from a pregnancy pillow, I settled on an at-least-somewhat-comfortable back-and-side-sleeping hybrid position. A recent study out of the U.K., though, found that sleeping on your back during pregnancy doubles your stillbirth risk, and that’s something that all parents-to-be need to be aware of.

According to ITV News, researchers involved in The Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS) interviewed more than 1,000 women and found that those who slept on their backs in the third trimester had “a 2.3-fold increased risk of late stillbirth” compared to those who slept on their sides. And while it can seem scary to think that something as seemingly benign as a sleep position could actually affect stillbirth rates, the study’s findings have the potential to make a huge impact. According to the MiNESS study, the findings of which were published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Monday, the stillbirth rate in the U.K. (currently around 1 in 225) would be reduced by 3.7 percent if all pregnant women were to sleep on their sides from 27 weeks onward — and internationally, it’s estimated that up to 100,000 babies could be saved from proper maternal sleep positioning.

New research confirms that going to sleep on your side in the third trimester helps prevent stillbirth. RT to save lives. #SleepOnSide

— Tommy’s Midwives (@TommysMidwives) November 20, 2017

In the United States, approximately 24,000 babies are stillborn each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the causes of those deaths aren’t often known. Certain risk factors have been identified though: smoking during pregnancy, being diagnosed with obesity, and having certain conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes can increase a woman’s risk of stillbirth; and, demographically, black women, teenagers, and women older than 35 are more likely to have stillbirths than others. But many stillbirths are ultimately considered to be “unexplained,” especially late stillbirths occurring between 28 and 36 weeks gestation. Yet, according to the MiNESS study, this is also the stage at which side sleeping becomes most important, perhaps shedding some light on ways…

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