ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Stillbirth More Prevalent for Pregnant Women Who Sleep on Their Backs

Updated on November 20, 2016
janderson99 profile image

John uses his research background in Biochemistry & Physiology to develop review articles - pregnancy, babies, infants, children, teenagers

Recent Australian research suggests that pregnant women who sleep on their backs have 5-6 times greater risk of having a stillborn baby.

Although the research results of the five-year Australian study are preliminary, and the sample size of 295 women is small, the results are significant.

This has highlighted the need for women to understand and examine the risks, and to be aware of the warning signs.

Like many research studies, the study was based on demonstrating a correlation rather than clearly proving cause and effect.

The researchers at the Stillbirth Foundation Australia cautioned that pregnant women should not be alarmed by these findings, if they sometimes sleep on their back.

They also advised that women who sense a decrease in their baby’s movements and slow weight gain, should seek professional advice sooner, rather than later, as these things can be early warning signs of potential problems.

The notion that a baby's movements in the womb declines late in the pregnancy as the baby gets ready for birth, has been shown to be a myth.

The baby’s movements should increased later in the pregnancy not decline.

There are many organizations throughout the world that offer support.
There are many organizations throughout the world that offer support. | Source

The mean rate of stillbirth in the United States is about one in 115 births, and in Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Australia, the rate is about one in every 200 births. Many stillbirths occur late in pregnancies, not related to prematurity, and many occur at full-term to mothers that appear to be healthy. Postmortem examinations have shown that the cause of death is unknown for about 60% of stillbirths. In developing countries, the stillbirth rate is much higher.

The ongoing research study examined the pregnancies of almost 295 women from 8 hospitals around Australia, who were more than 32 weeks through their pregnancy. In Australia, more than 2000 babies are stillborn every year. This rate that is 35 times higher than that of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The rate of stillborns is not declining and the causes are poorly understood. For about half of stillbirths that occur after 32 weeks, both the mothers and babies appeared healthy. This stage is past the risk period associated with premature birth. Only about 10% of stillborn babies at this late stage show signs of abnormality. Other potential causes include problems with the mother's general health and abnormalities with the placenta that supplies blood to the babies. The Sydney Stillbirth Study is aimed at providing better information to identify causes and risk factors.

The preliminary results of the study suggested that prolonged periods of rest on the back or on the right rather than the left side, may cause restricted blood flow to the baby for some women. The cause of this is possible interference of blood flow through a major vein carrying blood from the legs to the heart. This may affect blood supply to the womb.

Previous research has shown that about 75% of pregnant women sleep predominantly on their left side, rather than the right. The difference in the rates is much higher than in women who are not pregnant. This suggests that they could instinctively choose a favorable sleeping position that benefits both the mother and child, but this has yet to be confirmed.

The other significant risk factors for stillborns include lower that expected growth rates of babies (babies are small for their gestational age). The study also demonstrated a correlation between observed decreased movements of the baby and stillborn incidence. The researchers suggest that pregnant women should seek medical advice if either or both of these occur.

The small number of women monitored in this study and the preliminary nature of the study preclude any accurate recommendations for pregnant women about sleeping on their back during the latter stages of pregnancy.

Organizations Offering Support

There are various organizations that offer help and advice about stillbirths throughout the world.

  • UK Sands
  • Spring Support UK
  • Sands - Australia
  • Stillbirth Alliance - International
  • Stillbirth Foundation Australia
  • American Pregnancy Support
  • First Candle - International
  • Stillborn Support

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)