• Call us now: 0300 303 0444
  • Call us now: 0300 303 0444

You are here

‘RCM responds to research on maternal sleeping position’

13 October, 2017

‘RCM responds to research on maternal sleeping position’

A pregnant mother sleeping on her back during late pregnancy may cause problems for the fetus, according to new research published in The Journal of Physiology. This is the first study to monitor unborn babies overnight and at the same time record the mother’s position during sleep.

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.

Commenting on this latest study, Louise Silverton, Director for Midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said; “The potential for increased risk of stillbirth as a result of a pregnant woman's sleeping position is an important one and the RCM welcomes this research that supports earlier studies. 

“We have known for a long time that blood pressure is reduced where a woman is lying on her back. Many women will say that they don’t lie on their backs as they don’t always feel most comfortable in that sleeping position and often women are advised not to sleep on their backs.

“This small study adds to information in this area. Women should try to lie on their side when going to sleep. They will change position unconsciously whilst asleep and we believe that most will avoid moving onto their backs whilst asleep. Also, it is known that when in labour, moving a woman to the left hand side may improve the fetal heart rate trace.”

“What this study a show is that even in the healthiest of women with a fetus with no known risk factors, position is important. Equally, speaking to your midwife and discussing the best sleeping and resting positions for even something as simple lying on a sofa during pregnancy is crucial.

“The RCM would like to see more research focusing on sleeping position during late pregnancy and the effects that it may have on both mother and baby. Anyone women with concerns should speak to their midwife or GP”.




Notes to editors

The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/

Printer-friendly version