A pregnant mother sleeping on her back during late pregnancy may cause
problems for the fetus. Though this is a common notion, evidence from a study that
monitored unborn babies and the mother's for an entire night proved it to be
The sleep position of women in late pregnancy has been shown to be related to an increased risk of late stillbirth (after 28 weeks gestation).
Researchers at the University of Auckland investigated sleep position of pregnant women by setting up an infrared video camera to record their position as they slept. They also continuous recorded the heart rate of the women and fetus overnight using an ECG device.
This research involved 30 pregnant women at 34-38 weeks gestation and all of them were healthy with healthy babies. The researchers are now investigating pregnancies where the fetus is not growing properly or the mother has reported decreased fetal movements, as both situations have been associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
Peter Stone, one of the lead investigators on the study said, "In the situation where the baby may not be healthy, such as those with poor growth, the baby may not tolerate the effect of maternal back sleeping."
The authors added, "We are suggesting that there is now sufficient evidence to recommend mothers avoid sleeping on their back in late pregnancy, not only because of the epidemiological data but also because we have shown it has a clear effect on the baby."