Yes it can!
A new research by ” MiNESS study” has been published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggesting that the risk of stillbirth is doubled if pregnant women sleep on their backs in the last three months of pregnancy. This study is the biggest of its kind, and confirms the findings from smaller studies in New Zealand and Australia.
In 2015, there were 2.6 million stillbirths globally, with more than 7178 deaths a day. The majority of these deaths occured in developing countries. 98% occurred in low- and middle-income countries. About half of all stillbirths occur in the intrapartum period, representing the greatest time of risk.
Death of an unborn child is a devastating situation for both parents as well as the doctor involved. There are certain known factors like diabetes, hypertension, placental abruption and others we know that could be in the list of possible causes. But what about those cases where there were no warning signs, no complications and yet the baby stops moving all of a sudden! That is one nightmare each Obstetrician dreads- what could be the cause, did I miss something, what could possibly have gone wrong? And there is no answer at times. Even more horrifying for the to- be parents who have been planning out the name of the baby.
As they say about the drowning man catching straws, this bunch of straws we have through this study is a refreshing change. It estimates that if all pregnant women went to sleep on their side in the third trimester, there would be a 3.7% decrease in stillbirth – equivalent saving around 130 babies’ lives a year, which is a whole lot !
So what exactly is the logic of a simple sleeping position you may all ask? Well, the logic is that during the last 3 months of pregnancy when you lie supine/ on your back, the weight of the enlarged uterus along with the growing baby exerts pressure on one of your major vessel called the Inferior Vena Cava. Usually, when this compression effect takes place, the Inferior Vena Cava opens up branching vessels which take care of your blood supply during this period. It is when these branches fail to open up, that your blood supply gets seriously curtailed affecting the blood supply to uterus and restricting the oxygen flow to the fetus.
That is why, when you sleep on your sides, can be either your right side or left side, these complications can be prevented. This is a very simple thing that can be incorporated in daily life and prevent unforeseen stillbirths.
How can you check on yourself while you are sleeping? Difficult? Not to worry. Just take care of these simple tips that might help you keep it in check-
- Put pillows behind your back to encourage you to side- sleeping
- Go to sleep in any preferred side of yours
- If you wake up on your back at night, don’t worry. Just roll back on your sides.
- Even if you are taking a small nap during day, make sure of your side- sleeping position as much as you can.
- There are Maternity Sleeping pillows available- that may be helpful for those who find it really difficult to sleep on sides.
- Inform your family members about it- so that they can turn you back on your sides once they notice you on your back.
- And yes, its not like you cant lie on your back at all ! You can, just not for long periods. Try to keep it as minimum as possible. And as your pregnancy advances, you yourself will find lying on the sides better than on your back since lying straight also hinders with your respiration owing to your cute little baby growing inside you.
So take care of this small thing and continue your beautiful journey to the Motherhood !