Keeping your baby safe in pregnancy

There are some things you can do to keep your baby safe in the third trimester of pregnancy.

If your pregnancy is uncomplicated your risk of stillbirth is low (1 in 200 babies are stillborn). Taking these two steps below will make your risk even lower. 

  • Be aware of your baby’s movements from 28 weeks and if they lessen or stop tell your midwife or hospital immediately.
  • Go to sleep on your side from 28 weeks but do not worry if you wake up on your back during the night, simply roll back onto your side.

Knowing your baby’s movements

Your baby’s movements are a sign that they are well. When a baby is unwell or not receiving enough oxygen or nutrients, they move less to conserve their energy.

Being aware of their pattern of movement allows you to be aware and act if movements change in any way. Going to the hospital in time is important to make a difference.

A slow down of movement was reported by the mother in around half of stillbirths.

Read all about baby's movements and how to keep track of them.

Going to sleep on your side

Research has shown that in the third trimester (after 28 weeks of pregnancy) going to sleep on your back increases your risk of stillbirth. As the link has now been shown in four separate research trials, our advice is to go to sleep on your side in the third trimester because it is safer for your baby. The advice is the same for any type of sleep, including:

  • going to sleep at night
  • returning to sleep after any night wakenings
  • day time naps.

Sleep position in the third trimester is important because if you are on your back the combined weight of baby and womb puts pressure on other organs in your body.

Researchers do not know for certain what exactly is causing the increased risk of stillbirth, but we already know the following, which could play a part :

  • When sleeping/lying on your back the baby and womb put pressure on the main blood vessels that supply the uterus and this can restrict blood flow/oxygen to the baby.
  • Further recent studies have shown that when a woman lies on her back in late pregnancy (compared to lying on side) the baby is less active and has changes in heart-rate patterns. This is thought to be due to lower oxygen levels in the baby when the mother lies on her back.

Read our Q&A about sleep position and stillbirth risk here.

Other things you can do to keep your baby safe

  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you drink alcohol or take recreational drugs, stop
  • Go to all your antenatal appointments and scans so midwives can check your baby’s growth and development. They’ll also test for signs of conditions that can affect mums, such as pre-eclampsia, which have been associated with stillbirth. Give a urine sample at EVERY antenatal appointment.
  • Read up on how to avoid infections in pregnancy that can affect your baby. 
  • Tell your midwife about any bleedingstomach pains or other symptoms that are worrying you.
  • Report any itching to your midwife. Itching can be a sign of a liver disorder called obstetric cholestasis/intraheptic cholestasis of pregnancy. This condition has been linked to an increased risk of stillbirth, but with careful management most babies are unaffected.
  • Get your flu vaccination in pregnancy. The vaccine is recommended by the NHS as well as RCOG and RCM because of the benefits to you and your baby. Getting the flu in pregnancy is a serious matter. As well as increasing your risk of stillbirth it puts you at risk of complications.