Side-sleeping in late pregnancy

Date Published: 
Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Professor Lesley McCowan discusses the impact of maternal sleep position on late stillbirth risk and how the public health message of side sleeping is best in late pregnancy.



  • How common is stillbirth in NZ?
  • Risk factors for stillbirth
  • Adverse maternal factors
  • Additional stressors
  • Left or right side?
  • What if she wakes on her back?
  • Is side sleeping applicable for all sleeps?


Take home messages

  • Look for women with risk factors at any contact with the primary care team.
  • Make referrals early and help modify risk factors early in the preganancy.
  • Promote safe sleeping from 28 weeks on.
  • Side sleeping is safest and will significantly reduce the risk of stillbirth.
  • Settle on the side at every sleep - day or night.





Professor Lesley McCowan
Specialist in maternal fetal medicine

Lesley is a sub-specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine who became Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University of Auckland in 2009. In 2011 she received a New Year’s Honour (Officer of New Zealand Order of Merit) for services to health. Her clinical work is in high risk pregnancy especially preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction. A key research interest is the epidemiology of stillbirth, in particular the role of maternal sleep practices.  She is the lead investigator in a multicentre New Zealand case control study which aims to identify modifiable risk factors for late  (>28 weeks’) stillbirth. The long term goal of this research program is to develop preventative strategies for late stillbirth.



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This presentation is intended for qualified health practitioners professional development and should not be relied upon for any other purpose. Any opinions offered are those of the presenter or other speaker and do not necessarily represent the views of Goodfellow Unit.