Positional Sleep Therapy During Pregnancy May Promote Healthy of Baby and Mom

(U.S.) – A recent study suggests that an intervention to reduce back sleeping late pregnancy may promote maternal and fetal health.

The results of the study were published in August by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The results indicate that median time spent sleeping supine, lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up, was reduced significantly from 48.3 minutes during the control night to 28.5 minutes during the intervention night. Researches note improvement was observed in both the health of the mother and the fetal parameters during the intervention night. They specified an increase in median minimum maternal oxygen saturation, fewer maternal oxygen desaturation, and fewer fetal heart rate decelerations.

“Our findings suggest that women can comfortably sleep wearing a device around their waist that effectively stops them from sleeping on their back,” explained principal investigator Jane Warland, PhD, associate professor at the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. “Using positional therapy to keep the pregnant mother off her back may reduce supine sleep in late pregnancy and may also provide both maternal and fetal health benefits, with minimal impact on the maternal perception of sleep quality and sleep time.”

The study results were published in the August 15th, 2018 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Additionally, authors note that most pregnant women spend about 25 percent of their sleep time in the supine position, which may be a risk factor for stillbirth and low birth weight. According to the researchers’ notes published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, this relationship may be due in part to an exacerbation of sleep-disordered breathing and deprivation of oxygen to the fetus when sleeping on the back. They indicate that while positional therapy is a well-accepted way to reduce supine sleep time and increase side-sleeping in adults with sleep-disordered breathing, no prior studies have examined its use in pregnant women.

“Wearing a device that minimizes back sleep, and which is comfortable and doesn’t impact the mother’s sleep length or quality, may be a simple way to reduce stillbirth incidence, especially if the mother is at increased risk due to other factors,” Warland said.

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The study involved 25 healthy women during late pregnancy (between 32 and 38 weeks gestation). For two consecutive nights they were evaluated while sleeping at home: one night with no intervention as a control, and one night while wearing the PrenaBelt, a positional therapy device designed specifically for use in pregnancy.

Maternal heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and sleep and breathing parameters were assessed using a finger-based plethysmography device. Sleep position was recorded with a body position sensor that was inserted in the PrenaBelt. Fetal and maternal heart rate also were recorded using a device that monitors the electrical signals on the mother’s abdomen.

The authors noted that additional research is needed to further explore the risks and benefits of positional therapy in late pregnancy.

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