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Are you sleeping on your back during pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a unique situation, you feel excited and terrified at the same time. While it is a blessing, people usually hand down a list of everyday things to avoid that increases anxiety.

You may have heard that sleeping on your back isn’t advisable during pregnancy. But is it something you need to worry about?

Pregnant women complain of insomnia during pregnancy, but even if they sleep they have to take care of their sleep positions. One new study suggests that sleeping on your back during pregnancy is may result in a risk of stillbirth. The study was published online in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  The researchers examined whether or not the way some pregnant women sleep in their last trimester has any correlation to the likelihood that they will have a stillbirth. For those who don’t know what a stillbirth is, it is a situation when a woman loses a pregnancy after the 20th week. If the woman loses it before the 20th week, it is called a miscarriage.

For this study, researchers asked 291 women who recently had a stillbirth and a further 733 women who went on to have live births from 41 maternity wards in the U.K. They were all questioned about their sleep habits before pregnancy, during the last four weeks of pregnancy, and on the night before the stillbirth or interview.

After observing this data, the researchers found a link between sleeping positions and stillbirths. The researchers particularly found that participants who reported falling asleep on their back late in their pregnancies were about twice more susceptible to have a stillbirth as compared to those who slept on their left side.

What is to be learned here?

While the above-discussed research does not prove that sleeping on your back during pregnancy actually results in a stillbirth, it does contribute to a growing body of research that suggests sleeping on the side during pregnancy.

Due to the research being self-reported, the researchers couldn’t confirm whether or not the women in the study were actually sleeping in the positions they told. It is also worth mentioning that this research didn’t find any direct relation between sleeping on your back and stillbirths of the participants. There was just an association. Moreover, the study was unable to establish a clear reason for the link between the sleeping position and the risk for stillbirths.

Another study published in 2011 in the BMJ compared sleeping habits of 465 pregnant women in New Zealand. In those women, 155 had stillbirths after 28 weeks and 310 had live births. After a few weeks after stillbirths, the researchers interviewed the women about their sleeping positions, daytime sleep, and a few other factors at different durations during the pregnancy. That study found that women who slept on their right side or on their back the night before their stillbirth or interview were more likely to have a stillbirth than those who slept on their right side. This study found that those pregnant women who slept on their backs had 2.5 times the risk for a late stillbirth than other sleeping positions.

Doctors and scientists attribute this phenomenon to the changes in the blood flow when pregnant women laid on their backs or left side. They found that size of and the blood flow to the inferior vena cava (the large vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the heart) were both reduced when women laid on their backs.

Recommendations:

The American Pregnancy Association recommend sleeping on either side. It warns women that sleeping on their backs can cause backaches, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure, and breathing issues. It warns that sleeping on your back is one of the “worst positions” to sleep during the pregnancy. For a more comfortable sleep, it is advised that women use a memory foam mattress to lower the chance that you’ll roll over in the night. Also, try putting a pillow between your knees.

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