Whether you develop sleep apnea during pregnancy or whether you are planning a pregnancy after being diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), it is vital to understand both how sleep apnea can affect your pregnancy and how your pregnancy can affect your sleep apnea. Let’s take a closer look.
Why Do Some Pregnant Women Develop Sleep Apnea?
In some cases, women who have never before suffered from OSA will begin to show symptoms of sleep apnea during their pregnancy. In other cases, someone with mild sleep apnea will see a worsening of symptoms as their baby grows and develops. While scientists do not fully understand the connection between sleep apnea and pregnancy, researchers believe that OSA may appear or worsen due to:
- Sleep position. Sleep apnea may become worse when a sufferer sleeps on her back. Women in their second and third trimesters of pregnancy are restricted to sleeping on their side or back due to their growing belly. Women who switch to a back position may see OSA symptoms appear or become more severe when they are in certain sleeping positions.
- Weight gain. Women with healthy pregnancies will gain between 20 and 40 pounds in nine months – and a significant number of women in the United States will gain even more than that. While the baby is directly responsible for some of these extra pounds, much of the weight appears in other parts of the body. In some cases, this excess weight can make obstructions in the throat and mouth worse.
- Hormonal changes. Pregnant women go through a number of significant hormonal changes, especially after the baby’s placenta grows. These hormonal changes could affect their sleep, including their sleep apnea. Hormonal changes will continue after the baby’s birth as the mother nurses her baby.
- Shifts in internal organs. As the uterus grows, many of the organs in the abdominal cavity are pushed upward. This, paired with hormonal changes, can cause issues like acid reflux. Physicians also believe that this could contribute to OSA.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms During Pregnancy
Could you be suffering from sleep apnea during pregnancy? Common symptoms include:
- Long pauses between breaths while sleeping.
- Gasping, choking, or coughing during sleep.
- Daytime drowsiness and fatigue.
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking.
- Headache upon waking.
Sleep apnea requires a sleep study to diagnose. Speak to your primary care doctor or OBGYN if you are displaying symptoms of OSA.
Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy: Complications & Connections
It is difficult to understand how sleep apnea affects pregnancy and vice versa. This is complicated by the fact that both sleep apnea and pregnancy are associated with a number of other health issues, painting a complex picture. However, researchers have conducted a number of studies that have connected sleep apnea, pregnancy, and the following issues:
- High blood pressure.
- Gestational diabetes.
- Pre-eclamsia and eclamsia.
- Blood clots.
- Fetal heart rate abnormalities.
- Lower mean Apgar scores.
- Lower birth weight.
- Maternal death.
One way to prevent these issues, for both mother and baby, is to successfully treat OSA before and during pregnancy.
Treating Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy
The best treatment for obstructive sleep apnea during pregnancy depends upon the factors of the case, such as whether the patient had sleep apnea before pregnancy and how severe the sleep apnea is. To learn about the best treatment for you, before, during, or after pregnancy, speak to a health professional today.