Going to sleep in the supine position is a modifiable risk factor for late pregnancy stillbirth: Findings from the New Zealand multicentre stillbirth case-control study

Lesley ME McCowan, John MD Thompson, Robin S Cronin, Minglan Li, Tomasina Stacey, Peter R Stone, Beverley A Lawton, Alec J Ekeroma, Edwin A Mitchell

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Our objective was to test the primary hypothesis that maternal non-left, in particular supine going-to-sleep position, would be a risk factor for late stillbirth (≥28 weeks of gestation). Methods: A multicentre case-control study was conducted in seven New Zealand health regions, between February 2012 and December 2015. Cases (n = 164) were women with singleton pregnancies and late stillbirth, without congenital abnormality. Controls (n = 569) were women with on-going singleton pregnancies, randomly selected and frequency matched for health region and gestation. The primary outcome was adjusted odds of late stillbirth associated with self-reported going-to-sleep position, on the last night. The last night was the night before the late stillbirth was thought to have occurred or the night before interview for controls. Going-to-sleep position on the last night was categorised as: supine, left-side, right-side, propped or restless. Multivariable logistic regression adjusted for known confounders. Results: Supine going-to-sleep position on the last night was associated with increased late stillbirth risk (adjusted odds ratios (aOR) 3.67, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.74 to 7.78) with a population attributable risk of 9.4%. Other independent risk factors for late stillbirth (aOR, 95% CI) were: BMI (1.04, 1.01 to 1.08) per unit, maternal age ≥40 (2.88, 1.31 to 6.32), birthweight <10th customised centile (2.76, 1.59 to 4.80), and <6 hours sleep on the last night (1.81, 1.14 to 2.88). The risk associated with supine-going-to-sleep position was greater for term (aOR 10.26, 3.00 to 35.04) than preterm stillbirths (aOR 3.12, 0.97 to 10.05). Conclusions: Supine going-to-sleep position is associated with a 3.7 fold increase in overall late stillbirth risk, independent of other common risk factors. A public health campaign encouraging women not to go-to-sleep supine in the third trimester has potential to reduce late stillbirth by approximately 9%.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0179396
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalPLoS One
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


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