Stillborn risk highlighted
Women who sleep on their backs during the last three months of pregnancy are 3.7 times more likely to have a late stillbirth, Auckland University researchers say.
department of obstetrics and gynaecology head professor Lesley McCowan said its findings made sense as lying on the back in late pregnancy was associated with physical effects that could compromise a baby’s wellbeing.
Those effects included a reduction in the amount of blood pumped by the mother’s heart, reduced blood flow to the uterus and lower oxygen levels in the baby.
Sleeping on the back was also related to snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea, which are associated with pregnancy complications.
Education encouraging women to sleep on their sides in the last three months of pregnancy needed to be considered, McCowan said. It had the potential to reduce late stillbirth - after 28 weeks of pregnancy - by about 9 per cent, and could prevent the deaths of about 15 unborn babies a year in New Zealand.
The study was carried out in seven district health boards - Waitemata, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waikato, MidCentral, Capital & Coast and Canterbury.
A 2009 Auckland University study also identified sleep positions in late pregnancy as a risk factor for stillbirth.
The study was carried out in seven district health boards.