If you’re expecting your first child this year, no doubt doctors and nurses have encouraged you to sleep on your left side for the rest of your pregnancy. Some moms-to-be will roll their eyes, opting to sleep on their backs or right side regardless of what the doctors and nurses said. What difference does it make what side you sleep on? What’s the big deal? Your baby’s health is the big deal. According to two recently published studies, one printed in the British Medical Journal and the other, the Sydney Stillbirth Study, a mother’s sleep position has been identified as a risk factor for stillbirths. Pregnant women who sleep on their right side or on their back have double the risk of having a stillborn infant than pregnant women who sleep on their left side.
Both studies attempted to identify modifiable risk factors for late stillbirth. The Sydney Stillbirth Study monitored 295 pregnant women over five years and determined that women who sleep on their backs are six times as likely to have a stillborn infant as pregnant women who sleep on their left side. Researchers determined that sleeping on the right side or on the back restricted blood flow to the baby.
Over the last twenty years the stillbirth rate has remained largely unchanged and a significant public health issue. In higher income countries the rate of stillbirths is one in every 200. A stillbirth is a devastating outcome and most mothers will do anything reduce their risk. The New Zealand research suggests many benefits of a mother sleeping on her left side. When a mother sleeps on her left side there is improved blood flow to the fetus. Additionally, sleeping on the left side aids cardiac output and fetal oxygen saturation late in pregnancy. Late in pregnancy the enlarged uterus puts more pressure on the heart when a mother-to-be lies on her back or right side, potentially reducing uterine blood flow and venous return. The enlarged uterus also puts pressure on the spine, back muscles, intestines and other major blood vessels.
The left side sleeping position is considered the optimal position for pregnant women because improved blood flow gets better nutrients to the placenta which is better for the baby. Left side sleeping also helps the kidneys eliminate waste and fluids from your body more efficiently. This is especially helpful for pregnant women who suffer from swelling in their ankles, feet and hands.
If you’re a pregnant woman who normally sleeps on your back or right side, there are ways to adjust to sleeping on your left side. The easiest solution is to purchase a specially designed side sleeping pillow. Body pillows provide optimal support for the front and back of your body, encouraging therapeutic spinal and neck alignment while you sleep. STLBeds carries the highest quality side sleep pillows to accommodate all types of physiques. We offer memory foam pillows as well, an ideal material for side sleepers that provides pressure-diffusing relief for aches and pains. With a body pillow you’ll get the cushioning arms you need to feel the full support on your body’s front and back which will deter you from rolling onto your back.
As your pregnancy progresses, sleeping is not as comfortable as it once was. This is why a comfortable quality mattress and body pillows are a necessity. A good night’s sleep on your left side is better for you and your baby.