This research study is now complete
In 2011 a research trial in New Zealand made links between the risk of stillbirth and babies’ movements, and other factors in pregnancy including, smoking, detection of small babies and the mother’s sleep position. Some of these factors were already known, but some were not. Sleep position in pregnancy was not previously considered to be a risk factor for stillbirth.
As both of these research trials were small, it was recommended that further research be carried out to test the hypothesis and the Midlands and North of England Stillbirth Study (MiNESS) was established to take this forwards, funded by Cure Kids (a New Zealand charity), Action Medical Research, Tommy's and Sands. At the same time, a similarily sized multicentre trial was also funded in New Zealand by Cure Kids.
In the MiNESS study, 400 women who had a stillbirth at or after 28 weeks gestation completed a detailed questionnaire and talked to a research midwife about their sleeping habits and other aspects of their pregnancy. They were not told the purpose of the study.
The information obtained from these questionnaires and conversations were compared with those of a group of women who had healthy babies to see if there were any significant differences in their habits or experiences.
This study began in July 2014 and was initially going to be concluded in December 2015. Having received interest from a number of maternity units, however, the researchers applied for extra funding to extend the study by six months. This has meant the size of the study has increased which makes the results more reliable.
Progress update (14/06/2017)
The results of the New Zealand multi-centre trial mentioned above have now been published, and it has shown a four-fold increased risk in going to sleep supine (on your back) in late pregnancy. Researchers called for a public-facing campaign letting women know that going to sleep on your side is safer. In November 2017, Tommy's launched a public health campaign, #SleepOnSide, to raise awareness of the link between the mother sleeping on her back in the third trimester and stillbirth. Read more about our campaign.
Progress update - link between sleep and stillbirth confirmed (19/11/2017)
The MiNESS trial found that women who go to sleep in the supine (lying on the back) position have a 2.3-fold increased risk of late stillbirth (after 28 weeks’ gestation) compared with women who go to sleep on their side. Find out more about the results here.
Heazell AEP, Li M, Budd J, Thompson JMD, Stacey T, Cronin RS, Martin B, Roberts D, Mitchell EA, McCowan LME. Association between maternal sleep practices and late stillbirth – findings from a stillbirth case-control study. BJOG2017; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.14967.
Stacey T1, Thompson JM, Mitchell EA, Ekeroma AJ, Zuccollo JM, McCowan LM.
Association between maternal sleep practices and risk of late stillbirth: a case-control study. BMJ. 2011 Jun 14;342:d3403. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d3403.
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Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. We can keep you updated on our research news. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.