Photo by: Anna Kosali via Wikimedia Commons
A new study suggested that sleeping position during the third trimester of pregnancy is linked to stillbirth.The researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted a case-controlled study.The objective of the study was to determine the possible risk factor of sleeping in the supine position, lying horizontally with the face and chest facing up, in developing stillbirth.
The study was conducted in seven health regions in New Zealand between February 2012 and December 2015.About 164 cases of women with single pregnancies and late stillbirth, without congenital problems, and 569 controls of women with ongoing single pregnancies, were involved in the study.
The researchers adjusted the odds of late stillbirth according to the self-reported sleeping position on the last night.The last night was determined as the night before the late stillbirth was expected to happen or the night before the interview for controls.Sleeping positions categorized in the study were supine, left-side, right-side, and propped.The study findings revealed that the supine sleeping position is associated with a 3.7-fold increase in developing stillbirth.Pregnant women should go to sleep on the side during the third trimester.As such, this sleeping position can reduce stillbirth by up to nine percent.
"Supine going-to-sleep position is a modifiable risk factor for late stillbirth. Public health education should be developed recommending that women in the third trimester do not settle to sleep supine, especially after 37 weeks," said researchers of the study.
"Stillbirth is devastating with long-lasting effects on bereaved parents.Parents want to know why their baby has died, whether it might happen again if they try for another baby, and what they can do to avoid further stillbirth," said professor Alex Heazell, the clinical director at Tommy's Stillbirth Research Center in Manchester.
The Sleep on Side campaign aims to teach pregnant women and women planning to get pregnant about the risk of stillbirth when sleeping on their backs in the last trimester of pregnancy.After 28 weeks, pregnant women should assume sleeping on the side when sleeping at night, returning to sleep after the night awakenings, and napping during the daytime.Women who woke up on their backs can simply roll to their side.
Experts are not sure why the risk increases whenever a pregnant woman sleeps in the supine position.However, some theories suggest possible explanations:
- The combined weight of the mother and the baby puts pressure on the main blood vessels connected to the uterus.That pressure can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the baby.
- The disturbed breathing during sleep increases the risk of stillbirth.This disturbance worsens when the pregnant woman is sleeping on her back, and in overweight or obese women.
Stillbirth is a medical condition defined as the death of the baby during or after 20 or 28 weeks of pregnancy.If the baby dies before 20 weeks, the medical term is miscarriage or pregnancy loss, a natural death of the embryo or fetus before it can survive on its own.
As of date, there is no known cause of stillbirth and the causes of a large percent of stillbirth cases remain unknown.Even after extensive medical research, testing, and autopsy, medical science has no definitive answer as to what causes the condition.Possible causes of stillbirth include bacterial infection, birth defects, malaria, physical trauma, high blood pressure, radiation poisoning, and postdate pregnancy.
Diagnosis of stillbirth can be difficult because there is no real indication how much time the baby has left.For pregnant women, regular checking of the baby's movement may provide the sign.If the baby stopped moving, go straight ahead to your doctor to have the baby checked out.
Delivery of stillborn babies is usually consented immediately by their mothers.Some mothers may be allowed to wait and give their babies the chance to induce labor.In cases like that, doctors make sure that the baby does not develop an infection or any other health issues.
Some women have a higher risk of developing stillbirth.Risk factors include previous stillbirth, a history of pregnancy-related hypertension and preeclampsia, chronic medical conditions like lupus, diabetes or blood clotting disorder, specific lifestyle habits including smoking and alcohol abuse, obesity, and bearing twins.
Preventive Measures for Stillbirth
There are some preventive measures pregnant women can do to reduce the risk of developing stillbirth.
1.If you are planning to get pregnant, visit your doctor to receive a physical evaluation.In this way, your doctor can find and treat any underlying health problems you may have.
2.Take 400 mg of folic acid daily one month before trying to get pregnant.
3.If you are overweight, consider trimming some excess weight before attempting to conceive.
4.Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol, particularly during pregnancy.
5.Once you are pregnant, consider taking notes of your baby's kick count.Baby kicks usually start around 28 weeks of your pregnancy.
6.If you have any vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester, contact your doctor immediately.The bleeding may be an indication of placenta separating from the wall of the uterus.