Your sleeping position during pregnancy is about more than just comfort.
As the Stillbirth Foundation’s latest campaign advises, it’s also one of the many simple means by which women can help improve their chances of a healthy pregnancy.
“We need to get the message out there and our public education campaign is vitally important to effect real behavioural change and ensure more healthy births,” CEO of the organisation, Kate Lynch, told Mamamia.
“Too often, families are not informed about all potential preventive steps that can be taken to promote a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of stillbirth.”
Why is sleeping position during pregnancy so important?
Dr Rachael Hickinbotham, member of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told Mamamia she advises patients to sleep on their side during the final trimester to reduce pressure on vital blood vessels.
“After 28 weeks an average sized baby weighs around about 1.1kg, so that’s 1.1kg of baby that’s lying on the main veins and blood vessels that drain back up to your heart,” she told Mamamia. “That can make the mother feel faint, and can potentially, downstream, lead to reduced blood supply to the placenta.”
A prolonged reduction in blood supply to the placenta causes a baby to adapt its circulation to improve the blood supply to its brain, Dr Hickinbotham continued.
“Over time these adaptations will start to fail and a baby can become growth restricted and reduce its movements to conserve energy.
“That it why it is important to always be mindful of babies movements and seek out reassurance from labour ward and health care provider if a mother feels something is wrong.”
But there’s no need to panic.
Both she and Kate Lynch stress, though, that sleeping on your back is not cause for panic.
“Of course, expectant mums have enough things to worry about, and we certainly don’t want to add to that, because the steps we are talking about are so simple,” Lynch said.
“When you go to sleep, do it on your side. If you roll on your back in the night, roll back on your side when you wake.”
Dr Hickinbotham adds that although stillbirth – that is, pregnancy loss that occurs after 20 weeks gestation – is awful, it’s also rare in Australia; just one in every 137 women who reach 20 weeks’ pregnancy experience a stillbirth. Also, in the majority of the cases there’s no single, identifiable reason why it has occurred.
And that’s why monitoring and professional support is so crucial.
“Women that I’ve [treated] that have had stillbirth, in their next pregnancy I often see them every single week just to help them unpack their head, so we can go through it emotionally, because there’s often nothing that they’ve done wrong” she said. “And that’s the hard bit.”
Five steps key steps toward a happy, healthy pregnancy.
The Stillbirth Foundation advises pregnant women take the following simple but important steps to give themselves the best chance of a happy, healthy birth:
- Settle to sleep on your side to improve blood flow to the placenta and the baby.
- Being aware of your baby’s movements during pregnancy is one of the simplest things you can do to help keep your baby safe and healthy. Regular and healthy movements are a good sign of wellbeing.
- Get help to stop smoking.
- Attend healthcare check-ups to monitor your baby’s growth.
- Discuss with your healthcare professional to optimise the timing of your birth.