Study Finds that Sleeping on Your Back During Pregnancy May Cause a Scary Complication

You may have heard that as a pregnant woman, you shouldn't sleep on your back. But hey, when you're pregnant and sleep deprived and you finally get comfy, it can be incredibly difficult to switch positions, you know what I'm saying? Sometimes you do what you gotta do to get a full night's sleep. 

Sleeping on your back during pregnancy compresses one of the major blood vessels in your body, called the vena cava, which decreases circulation to the baby, cutting down on both essential oxygen flow and nutrients he or she needs. It's recommended that pregnant women try to lay on their left side as much as possible to allow optimum blood flow to the baby. 19

But still, life (and naps) happen. And honestly, when I was pregnant I didn't think much of the recommendation not to sleep on my back. Most of the time, it just wasn't comfortable anyway, so it wasn't much of a concern. I pretty much resembled a beached whale, so flopping on my back was the last thing I wanted to do. But still, there was the occasional time I would roll over in my sleep and wake up flat on my back. I didn't think much of it and would just roll back over and go to sleep. 

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But now a new study says that sleeping on your back during pregnancy may be even riskier than we previously thought. And it can carry one very frightening complication. 

back during pregnancy, stillbirth
Image via Flickr/ Nana B Agyei

A new study says that women who sleep on their back may be more at risk for having a stillbirth. The research was completed at the University of Auckland. It found that women who regularly sleep on their backs in the last months of pregnancy are almost four times more likely to have a stillbirth. The study was actually done to confirm an earlier study the school did back in 2011 that came to the same conclusion. Women who sleep on their backs during pregnancy are more likely to have a stillbirth. 

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It's incredibly scary research, I know. And while it's important for us to talk about, it doesn't necessarily mean that sleeping on your back will cause a stillbirth. The study found that back sleeping was also associated with other medical conditions, such as sleep apnea, which may also have something to do with an underlying cause for a complication like a stillbirth. 

In the meantime, as more research is done on to exactly why the link exists, it is a good idea to try to get in the practice of sleeping on your side during pregnancy. I recommend a good long body pillow or a pregnancy pillow. And if you absolutely can't help but sleep on your back during pregnancy, at least prop a pillow or two up under your left hip. That will take the full amount of pressure off of your back and keep that blood and oxygen flowing to your baby. 

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What about you? Are you a back sleeper during pregnancy? 

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Study Finds that Sleeping on Your Back During Pregnancy May Cause a Scary Complication

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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