Results of a Sands funded study published today has shown a direct link between the position pregnant women go to sleep in and the risk of stillbirth. Importantly, it also highlights what pregnant women can do reduce the risk to themselves and their baby.

The Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS) is the largest of four similar studies which have all shown the same link between the position that a woman goes to sleep in and stillbirth after 28 weeks of pregnancy.

The findings clearly show that a pregnant woman who goes to sleep on their back is more likely to suffer a stillbirth after 28 weeks of pregnancy than if they slept on their side. If all pregnant women in the UK went to sleep on their side in the third trimester, MiNESS estimates a 3.7% decrease in stillbirth, saving around 130 babies’ lives a year.

Importantly, the research also shows that it is the position a woman goes to sleep in that is important, not the position they wake up in.

This new information is key in empowering mums to be with the know-how to make them and their babies as safe as possible during pregnancy and help reduce the baby death rate in the UK.

The MiNESS study would not have been possible without the support of Sands’ parents, families and friends who fundraised tirelessly to ensure that the research could go ahead. Thanks to them, people who are thinking about having a baby, or who are currently pregnant have more information to help make their baby as safe as possible.

Clea Harmer, CEO at Sands, said: “Sands’ parents, families and friends have worked hard to raise money to help to fund the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS), which will help reduce stillbirths in the UK. We’re pleased we can now give pregnant women a simple message they can act on for a safer pregnancy: if you’re past 28 weeks of pregnancy, it’s safer for your baby if you go to sleep on your side rather than settling to sleep on your back. Our pregnancy information at www.saferpregnancy.org.uk now carries this advice.

“The MiNESS research highlights an important risk factor for stillbirth, but unravelling the causes of stillbirth is a long and complex process, and there is so much more to do. Sands funds research into the causes of stillbirth through its Research Fund, and we call on other funders to support high-quality research that will help us understand more about why babies die.”

Find out more about the MiNESS study.

View the results of the study in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gyanaecology.