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Sleeping position does not affect pregnancy outcome
Despite the standard medical advice for pregnant women to sleep on the left side, American researchers found that the position of the body during sleep does not increase the likelihood of negative outcomes.
Photo: flickr.com/Wells, Spencer, 1818-1897 /
Although doctors often advise pregnant women to sleep on their left side, a new American study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that body position during sleep is not critical.
The researchers examined data on childbirth of 8709 women who completed at least one questionnaire about their own sleep before the 30th week of pregnancy. Overall, 1,903 women (22%) experienced serious complications - dangerously high blood pressure, stillbirth, or low birth weight for their gestational age.
The results showed that women who slept on their right side or on their backs did not experience more serious complications than those who slept on their left side. This should reassure many pregnant women who worry that sleeping on their backs or being able to roll over in their sleep could harm their unborn baby.
“There is also a downside to encouraging avoiding sleeping on your back. Some women have problems sleeping on their left side, they cannot control movements during sleep. Women who wake up on their backs are more likely to be anxious, and women who blame, shame, and self-flagellation are more likely to experience adverse pregnancy outcomes such as stillbirth,”said Robert Silver of the University of Utah at Salt Lake City, presenter research author.
As noted by the authors, previous studies have linked sleeping on your back or right side with an increased risk of serious complications of pregnancy, because such positions can constrict the blood vessels supplying the uterus.
In the current study, however, serious pregnancy complications were more likely to be associated with being overweight or obese, smoking, high blood pressure, or diabetes before pregnancy. Body position at bedtime or on waking did not affect the risk of complications.
The researchers also examined objectively measured sleep positions for a subgroup of women who underwent home sleep studies due to breathing problems at night. There was also no significant difference in the risk of pregnancy complications based on sleeping on the back more than half the time or less.
The researchers did not aim to prove whether body position during sleep can directly affect pregnancy outcomes. The relationship between posture and complications in the last weeks of pregnancy was also not considered.
“Pregnant women should sleep in the position that is most comfortable for them. The few who experience pregnancy complications need to be sure that this was not due to their sleeping position,”summed up Nathan Fox of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York in an accompanying article.