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Study says that sleep position can affect stillbirth risk

A new study indicates that pregnant women who sleep on their left side have a significantly lower rate of stillbirth. While this study was limited in scope including data from only 155 women who had suffered a late term stillbirth, it may be the basis for a hypothesis that can be tested on a larger population.

There are many other causes that lead to stillbirth including illness and medical negligence. The researchers theorize that the side which a mother sleeps on may contribute to an increased risk because sleeping lying on the right side or back may restrict blood flow to the fetus. The study also showed that stillbirth risk is higher in pregnant women who routinely sleep longer than average without getting up.

An extrapolation of the data from the study indicates that stillbirths occur in 3.93 women per 1,000 who sleep on their right side. In women who sleep on their left side the occurrence was 1.96 per 1,000.

If it turns out that the risk of still birth can be reduced by something as non-invasive as changing sleeping positions it may save many newborn babies. Changing sleeping position does not incur any additional medical expense and there are no side effects.

The World Health Organization says that more than 2.6 million stillbirths occur each year world-wide. This breaks down to more than 7,000 pregnancies ending in stillbirth each year. These occur most often in developing countries.

The results of the study appeared in the British Medical Journal.

Source: Health News "Sleep Position of Expectant Mothers Linked to Stillbirth Risk" Drucilla Dyess, June 15, 2011

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