15 October 2019

Pregnant women are being encouraged to sleep on their side to avoid stillbirth in a new Australia-wide education campaign, following evidence showing sleep position can halve the risk of a late-pregnancy stillbirth.

The NSW Government provided $100,000 in funding to the Stillbirth Foundation Australia to develop materials on side sleeping, as part of the new Safer Baby program being launched by the federal government today.

Senior Clinical Advisor in Obstetrics, Professor Michael Nicholl said NSW Health is committed to reducing preventable stillbirth rates and supporting clinicians to raise awareness amongst pregnant women.

“On Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, it is important to acknowledge the loss and suffering of families who have experienced a stillbirth, and to continue our efforts to prevent future stillbirths through improved education and care,” Professor Nicholl said.

“Stillbirth after 28 weeks of pregnancy affects about one in every 500 babies. The evidence shows that women who go to sleep on their side from 28 weeks of pregnancy can halve the risk of stillbirth, compared to going to sleep on their back.”

Senior Staff Specialist Neonatologist, Professor Adrienne Gordon said that from 28 weeks of pregnancy, women should go to sleep on their side at night, after waking up throughout the night and when having daytime naps.

“The going-to-sleep position is the one held longest during the night so women should not be concerned if they wake up on their back, but should simply roll back onto their side. Either the left or right side is fine,” Professor Gordon said.

“After 28 weeks of pregnancy, lying on your back presses on major blood vessels which can reduce both the blood flow to the woman’s womb and oxygen supply to the baby.”

NSW is a key partner with other states and territories and the Stillbirth Centre for Research Excellence in the Safer Baby program.

The NSW Government is investing $170 million in additional health services for families as part of the 2019-20 NSW Budget.

The new Side Sleep resources, including Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal versions of posters and flyers for clinicians and pregnant women are available to download at Reducing stillbirth.