Thursday, 23 November 2017

Sleep position in late pregnancy linked to a mother's risk of having a stillbirth

Stillbirth; the death of a baby before birth,  almost always causes heartbreak to the hitherto expectant parents and often leaves them wondering what they may have done or avoided doing that led to the loss of their unborn baby. The babies lost before birth, just like those lost after birth are hardly ever forgotten. 

To contribute towards reducing incidences of stillbirths, risk factors are often studied to identify women at increased risk, with the aim of possibly reducing the risk factors.  Some researchers in the UK looked at the association between maternal sleep practices and stillbirths. 

Image result for maternal supine position
They found out that 'mothers who went to sleep on their back had at least twice the risk of stillbirth compared with mothers who went to sleep on their left-hand side'. The study suggested that 3.7% of stillbirths after 28 weeks of pregnancy in the UK was linked with going to sleep lying on the back. The report as presented in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology posited that the maternal supine position (a position where the pregnant woman lies horizontally with her face and torso facing up) is associated with compression of the inferior vena cava and reduced venous return, which in turn decreases the amount of blood pumped by the heart per minute and ultimately leads to reduced blood flow to the uterus. The study further reported the maternal supine position as a contributor to abnormalities in fetal heart rate traces in labor. 

Physiological studies had before now reported that unborn babies frequently adopt the quiet sleep position which is an oxygen sparing position whenever their mothers are in the supine position. 
Although women regularly change their sleep positions when sleeping, the report stated that the going-to-sleep position is very important as it is the one that is held longest and may have the greatest impact on the baby.The study suggests that incidences of late stillbirth will decrease if no pregnant mother goes to sleep on her back. 

Based on the reports of the study and other similar ones, pregnant women are recommended to as much as possible avoid the supine position, especially during the last trimester. 
While a pregnant mother may not be able to do anything about the position she wakes up in, she can do something about that which she goes to sleep in. Putting a pillow behind her back would help encourage side-sleeping.  It is best if she can afford a maternity pillow which can help her remain in the side-sleeping position. 

Image result for pillow behind back sleeping
Source; A maternity pillow


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