A new study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology confirms findings that side sleeping during the third trimester of pregnancy can help reduce the chance of stillbirth. Analyzing over 1,000 women's birth outcomes, the researchers found that going to sleep on their backs doubles women's risk.
The study looked into 291 pregnancies that ended in stillbirth and 735 women who had a live birth. Researchers say the position which women fall asleep in is most important - and they should not worry if they are on their back when they wake up.
Researchers do not know for sure why the risk is increased, but they have an idea:
[T]here is a lot of data that suggests when a woman is lying on her back, the combined weight of the baby and womb puts pressure on blood vessels which can then restrict blood flow and oxygen to the baby.
Team leader Prof Alexander Heazell, clinical director at the Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester, said although side sleeping is recommended, women should not worry about waking up on their back because the position you fall asleep in is the one you maintain the longest.
"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'. And also 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."