Mum's sleep matters—the effect of sleep on an unborn baby

July 19, 2018 by Annabel Mansfield, University of South Australia

How much sleep mothers get when they are pregnant can impact on the health of their growing baby, according to a new scoping study conducted by the University of South Australia.

Assessing outcomes relating to birth weight, fetal growth, pre-term delivery and stillbirth, researchers identified four key aspects of maternal sleep that may contribute to poor fetal outcomes.

Lead researcher, UniSA's Associate Professor Jane Warland, says the research gives expectant mothers and clinicians important insights into sleep and heathy pregnancies.

"This study looks into relatively un-navigated territory, at the relationship between fetal health and maternal sleep, mapping commonalties across maternal sleep conditions including sleep apnea, , , and sleep position," Assoc Prof Warland says.

 "Adults sleep for a third of their lives, so too an , is asleep for a third of their gestation, so it makes sense that maternal sleep could have an impact the health of the fetus.

"We already know that if a mother sleeps on her back, it can negatively impact the unborn baby, probably by reducing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the placenta.

"But across these studies we also found consistencies among mothers suffering from , short sleeps, and poor quality sleep which could increase the likelihood of pre-term birth, and perhaps even stillbirth.

"The most significant finding suggested a relationship between premature birth and maternal , with four out of the five larger studies showing a clear connection between the two."

Adverse outcomes for an unborn baby remain a reality in Australia, with about 15 per cent of newborns needing extra care at birth, one in 10 babies born prematurely, and six babies stillborn every day.

Assoc Prof Warland says that preventing stillbirth and reducing fetal risks remains one of the greatest challenges of modern maternity care.

"In Australia, the rate of stillbirth is double that of our national road toll," Assoc Prof Warland says.

"This hasn't changed in 20 years and despite the  prevalence of stillbirth, in up to 40 percent of cases, the cause of death remains unknown.

"By investigating this important field of study we're hoping to provide clinicians and families with important information that may safeguard the health and well-being of an unborn baby and reduce the incidence of poor fetal outcomes."

Explore further: Sleep on your side, not your back in late pregnancy

Related Stories

Sleep on your side, not your back in late pregnancy

October 12, 2017
A pregnant mother sleeping on her back during late pregnancy may cause problems for the fetus, according to new research published in The Journal of Physiology. This is the first study to monitor unborn babies overnight and ...

Babies born to mothers with sleep apnea have higher risk of adverse neonatal outcomes

June 4, 2017
A new study is the first to demonstrate a higher risk of congenital anomalies and resuscitation at birth in newborns of mothers who have obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleeping position linked to the risk of stillbirth

November 20, 2017
Pregnant women who go to sleep on their back during the later stages of pregnancy face an increased likelihood of suffering a stillbirth, according to new research.

Study finds no link between sleep apnea and joint pain

August 1, 2016
Consistent with previous reports, poor sleep quality was linked with joint pain in a recent Arthritis Care & Research study of the general population, but the study found no association between obstructive sleep apnea and ...

Ghanaian pregnant women who sleep on back at increased risk of stillbirth

March 25, 2013
Pregnant women in Ghana who slept on their back (supine sleep) were at an increased risk of stillbirth compared to women who did not sleep on their back, according to new research led by a University of Michigan researcher.

Sleeping on back in pregnancy tied to stillbirth risk in study

January 8, 2015
(HealthDay)—Women who sleep on their backs in the later months of pregnancy may have a relatively higher risk of stillbirth if they already have other risk factors, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Sleep apnea, congenital heart disease may be deadly mix for hospitalized infants

September 17, 2018
Infants often aren't screened for sleep apnea, but a new study suggests the disorder may be tied to an increased risk of death in infants with congenital heart disease.

Sleep deficiency increases risk of a motor vehicle crash

April 4, 2018
Excessive sleepiness can cause cognitive impairments and put individuals at a higher risk of motor vehicle crash. However, the perception of impairment from excessive sleepiness quickly plateaus in individuals who are chronically ...

Sleep apnea study finds male-female differences in cerebral cortex thickness, symptoms

March 13, 2018
Researchers from the UCLA School of Nursing examined clinical records and magnetic resonance imaging brain scans of patients who were recently diagnosed with sleep apnea, and discovered several apparent connections between ...

Synthetic cannabinoid reduces sleep apnea

November 29, 2017
A synthetic version of a molecule found in the cannabis plant was safe and effective in treating obstructive sleep apnea in the first large, multi-site study of a drug for the sleep disorder funded by the National Institutes ...

Sleeping through the snoring: Researchers identify neurons that rouse the brain to breathe

November 2, 2017
A common and potentially serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea affects at least one quarter of U.S. adults and is linked to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. In a paper published today ...

Remede system approved for sleep apnea

October 9, 2017
(HealthDay)—The Remede sleep system, an implanted device that treats central sleep apnea by activating a nerve that sends signals to the diaphragm to stimulate breathing, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.