Side sleeping and stillbirth

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Goodfellow Gems

Going-to-sleep on the side in late pregnancy (≥28 weeks) reduces the risk of stillbirth

A meta-analysis on maternal going-to-sleep position and late stillbirth has recently been published, incorporating all available international data.1

This showed that supine going-to-sleep position is independently associated with late stillbirth in the general pregnant population. This is regardless of mother’s body size, baby size, smoking, recreational drug use, pre-existing hypertension or diabetes, fetal movements, or gestation.

There was no difference in risk with right side going-to-sleep position compared to left.

If all pregnant women in their third trimester slept on their side, this could potentially reduce late stillbirth by approximately 6%.

It is important this health message is conveyed to women in late pregnancy. Whooping cough vaccination / invitation letter in second / third trimester is one potential opportunity for this.

For information and resources see Cure Kids Sleep on Side campaign.

This Gem has been reviewed by Professor Lesley McCowan.


  1. An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis of Maternal Going-to-Sleep Position, Interactions with Fetal Vulnerability, and the Risk of Late Stillbirth. The Lancet (2019).  Click here

Gems are chosen by the Goodfellow director Dr. Bruce Arroll to be either practice changing or practice maintaining. The information is educational and not clinical advice.

As published in NZ Doctor 26/02/2020