Does sleeping on your left hand side really reduce the chance of stillbirth?

Stillbirth is a topic that pregnant women don’t want to think about and everyone hopes that it isn’t them but the latest research from the The Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS) published today has the startling statistic of 1 in 255 babies in the UK are stillborn. That equates to approximately 9 babies a day in the UK and with rates like that we HAVE to talk about it.

This is a global issue, the rate in Australia is 1 in 100 babies, in the US this is one in 160 which is just devestating for all the families involved.

The term “stillborn baby” refers to a baby dies at any point over 24 weeks of the pregnancy (though it is calculated differently in different countries).

There are a few known reasons for babies to be stillborn though it’s not always possible to identify exactly why a particular baby has not survived. Some of these reasons can be that the placenta has started to calcify (which could be because it’s over the due date), high blood pressure leading to preeclampsia or that there has been a birth defect.

Sometimes the factors can cause a stillbirth are completely out of our control but there is one really simple thing you can do that significantly reduces the risk…

The research out today suggests that the position a pregnant mum sleeps in the third trimester (after 27 weeks) is vitally important.

By lying on the left hand side to go to sleep you can significantly reduce the risk of a stillborn.

There is a simple reason for this — you have a large artery that runs down the right hand side that feeds the baby nutrients, so keeping off the right hand side allows the baby to grow and develop. The liver is also on the right so making sure it can filter the blood and help the other organs to digest and process food. So trying as much as you can to stay on your left is a great way to help your baby grow and thrive.

The question most people ask is “what happens if i can’t stay on my side while asleep?” or “what if i wake up on my back?” The answer is don’t panic as it’s ok once you are off to sleep. to be in any position. The advice is just to start off on your left as that’s the position you will stay in the longest during the night.

If you wake in the night and notice that you’re on your back then simply roll back onto your side. It’s the same advice if you’re having a nap.

If for some reason you need to lie on your back simply roll up a towel and place it under your right hip to keep you off-centre — though it’s not advised to stay like this for long periods of time.

You can use pillows like the Sangol maternity pillow or something similar to make yourself more comfortable (pic in blog folder) as it will cuddle you and make it harder for you to turn. Also having the pillow go under your bump will help make sure that your hips are more comfortable during the night.

Hopefully by sleeping on your side it will go in some way to make sure your pregnancy and delivery is safe and well.

If you or someone in your family has been affected by stillbirth you can contact Tommys in the UK or the Stillbirth Foundation in Australia for help and support.