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Expectant mums urged to sleep on side to reduce stillbirth risk

4 minute read
Expectant mums urged to sleep on side to reduce stillbirth risk

Published by the Eagle Radio News Team at 12:50pm 20th November 2017. (Updated at 1:14pm 20th November 2017)

A new study has found the risk of stillbirth more than doubles if women sleep on their backs in the last three months of pregnancy.

In the UK, more than 3-and-a-half-thousand babies are stillborn every year.

The baby charity Tommy's says if mums-to-be sleep on their sides during their third trimester, the number would fall by nearly 4 per cent.

Eight years ago, Heidi Eldridge from New Haw was looking forward to the birth of her first baby, after she and her husband had battled for 18 months to conceive.

At 37 weeks pregnant she made a routine visit to her midwife, who expressed concern she had not felt the baby move for some time.

Her world came crashing down around her - when she and her husband were told later in hospital that their yet-to-be-born son Aidan had died in the womb.

The news came as a complete shock: "When they told us, I kept stretching my eyelids out, just thinking I was going to wake up from this terrible, terrible nightmare.

"I thought - this cannot be true, it cannot be happening to me.

"I was just really naive, I just thought if there is a problem with the baby they'll just induce me there and then, they'll just deliver my baby early.

"I just never imagined in a million years that my baby could have possibly died.

"I guess I just thought that would never happen to me.

"It was there (in hospital) that they confirmed that my baby had died, and obviously then our world just completely shattered.

"We had no idea that babies were dying in the twentieth century."

The loss of Aidan inspired her to set up a charity - Mama Academy - to inform expectant mums about the dangers and what to look out for.

As well as a website, the charity supplies some NHS Trusts with Wellbeing Wallets which are handed out to mums-to-be, and which Heidi said is helping to reduce stillbirth across the country.

Heidi Aldridge

In the largest study to examine maternal sleep and stillbirth, scientists assessed more than 1,000 pregnant women.

Stillbirth is 15 times more common than cot death and Britain has one of the worst records in the developed world.

Researchers say the results of the latest study could potentially save 100,000 babies a year if the risk was eliminated internationally.

The work was carried out by Tommy's Stillbirth Research Centre in Manchester.

The centre's clinical director, Professor Alex Heazell, said: "Around 11 babies are stillborn every day in the UK.

"Stillbirth is devastating with long-lasting effects on bereaved parents. Parents want to know why their baby has died, whether it might happen again if they try for another baby and what they can do to avoid further stillbirth."

A public health campaign has been launched to accompany the publication of the results.

The "Sleep on Side" campaign aims to educate women about the risk of going to sleep on their back in late pregnancy. It includes a video showing how a mother-to-be should lie when nodding off. The advice applies to sleep in the third trimester (after 28 weeks) including:

:: Going to sleep at night
:: Returning to sleep after night awakenings
:: Daytime naps

As the going-to-sleep position is the one held longest during the night, women shouldn't be worried if they wake up on their back but should simply roll over onto their side.

Although researchers can't say for certain why the risk is increased, there are several theories.

In the third trimester, when the woman is lying on her back, the combined weight of baby and uterus (womb) puts pressure on the main blood vessels that supply the uterus, and this can restrict blood flow/oxygen to the baby.

Other possible explanations include disturbed breathing during sleep, which is worse when a woman sleeps on her back and in overweight or obese women, who also have an increased risk of stillbirth.


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