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Why nurses and midwives need to advise pregnant women on sleeping positions

Wednesday 23rd November 2016
New research has found that certain sleeping positions may increase stillbirth risk. Image: kjekol via iStock
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Nurses and midwives need to be more active in advising pregnant women on the best positions to lie in when going to sleep, new research suggests.

Scientists at the University of Auckland have been examining how sleeping positions in the third trimester affect stillbirth risk, finding that expectant mothers who sleep on their backs may be more likely to give birth to a stillborn infant.

The researchers monitored 29 healthy women throughout their final three months of pregnancy, looking at how lying in different positions for 30 minutes at a time affected the wellbeing of their unborn baby.

It was found that women who lay on their backs were putting their babies under increased stress due to the position they were in, potentially reducing the oxygen flow to the foetus. Therefore, they were at a greater risk of giving birth to a stillborn baby as a result of this restricted oxygen supply.

All of the study participants gave birth to healthy babies, but the scientists working on the study noted that the women who slept on their backs were at a significantly higher risk of stillbirth.

With this in mind, nurses and midwives should be taking a more active stance on advising pregnant women to lie on their side at night time to make sure nutrients and oxygen can continue to reach the foetus while they are asleep.

Commenting on the research, director of midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives Louise Silverton stated: "There is a lesson here for midwives in that we must ensure that we advise women on the best positions for sleep.

"We have known for a long time that blood pressure is reduced where a woman is lying on her back. Also, it is known that, when in labour, moving a woman to her left-hand side may improve the foetal heart rate trace."

Written by James Puckle

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