Pregnancy S.O.S. (Sleep on Side)
Last weekend My Butterfly Pillow had the opportunity to attend the Atlanta Baby & Beyond Expo at the Avalon. What an incredible experience! We met so many great vendors, and all the attendees were happy and glowing.
We discovered a couple of years ago that our side-sleeper pillow could help expectant mothers get comfortable at rest, especially as the third trimester takes over their body. However, we didn't learn until about 10 months ago that ObGyn's were recommended sleeping on the left side during pregnancy for health reasons.
How important can your sleep position be if you are pregnant? In some cases, it can literally be a matter of life and death.
I know. That seems like one of those grand click-bait proclamations designed just to get your attention. It's not. Here's why.
In 2014, several groups who work to reduce the number of infant deaths in the UK and New Zealand got very concerned about some still birth studies done a few years earlier. There were three such studies, all of which pointed to a direct connection between the likelihood of stillbirth and a mother's sleeping position, especially late in her pregnancy. None of those studies were conclusive, so in 2014 the groups sponsored a study called the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS). The study took three years to complete, surveyed over a thousand women, and compared those who had experienced a stillbirth with those who had a live birth. Here is what it found:
Mothers who went to sleep on their back had at least twice the risk of stillbirth compared with mothers who went to sleep on their left‐hand side. This study suggests that 3.7% of stillbirths after 28 weeks of pregnancy were linked with going to sleep lying on the back. This study also shows that the link between going‐to‐sleep position and late stillbirth was not affected by the duration of pregnancy after 28 weeks, the size of the baby, or the mother's weight...
This is the largest of four similar studies that have all shown the same link between the position in which a mother goes to sleep and stillbirth after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
The reason for that involves one of the major veins in your body called the inferior vena cava (IVC). The IVC begins just above your waist and runs along your spinal column to your heart. Its job is to bring blood in need of oxygen to your heart, where it can fill up and head back out through the aorta. it's called "inferior" because it services the lower half of your body, just as its partner the superior vena cava handles your upper half.
Good so far? Okay. Here's where it gets tricky.
When a woman later in her pregnancy sleeps on her back, the weight of the baby in her uterus presses down on the IVC and restricts the flow of blood. Less blood going to the heart means less blood coming from the heart. Not only can that be fatal to the baby but it can also harm the mother due to low blood pressure (a condition with the sufficiently dreadful name of aortocaval compression syndrome). It's important to note here that not every woman experiences this condition and you should always -- ALWAYS -- talk to your doctor if you have even the slightest medical concern. With that in mind, if you're pregnant (especially if you already have sleep-related conditions like sleep apnea), we'd like you to talk to your doctor about side-sleeping. More information from a qualified medial professional is always a good thing to have!
The important takeaway here is that, for women in the third trimester of their pregnancy, side-sleeping is a no-brainer idea, recommended by many, many doctors and it may just be a thing for you. If you do adopt the Sleep on Side mentality, you will need the right equipment -- a comfortable mattress and pillow that will not only let you sleep well but will also help you stay on your side so you can get the best and most healthy rest for you and your new baby.