Pregnancy and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a severe sleeping disorder that affects the breathing of a person while sleeping. Usually people who are overweight and obese tend to be more prone to sleep apnea but in some cases, pregnant women are also at risk.

Are Pregnant Women At Risk?

Yes, pregnant women have a high chance of suffering from sleep apnea. In fact, pregnant women are at greater risk of sleep apnea especially during the third trimester.

  • It is believed that the beginning of third trimester is when you start getting heavier and gaining weight. This extra mass you gain during pregnancy gets accumulated in your neck and throat and puts you at a greater risk of suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Increased levels of estrogen during pregnancy contribute to swelling in the membranes which line the nose and this may cause you to make more mucus.
  • During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases and your blood vessels tend to expand which means that your nasal membranes could start swelling and again putting you at a higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea.

The rate of pregnant women developing sleep apnea is around ten percent. However, this is not a confirmed number because majority of women have sleep apnea without even knowing it. Women who suffer from high blood pressure during pregnancy have a chance of suffering from sleep apnea as well.

Side Effects of Sleep Apnea on the Baby

Sleep apnea can often have negative effects on the baby if not treated properly. As sleep apnea is linked with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm delivery and low birth weight, there is a chance of the baby suffering from birth defects and deficiencies. However, the good news is that appropriate treatment and proper precautions can greatly increase your chances of having a healthy baby.

Precautions and Treatments – Ensure the Baby’s Health

There are various treatments which help cure sleep apnea without causing harm to a pregnant woman and her baby.

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): It is a machine which consists of a mask which regulates the required air pressure to the patient. CPAP treatment is highly effective for obstructive sleep apnea and does not have any side effects for pregnant women.
  • Oral Devices: Oral/Dental devices such as tongue retainers and mandibular repositioning devices can help keep the airways open while you are sleeping. In order to be effective and efficient, these appliances are customized according to the shape of your jaw and face.
  • Surgery: Surgeries are an effective way to cure sleep apnea but they are to be performed on pregnant women only if absolutely necessary. Most doctors and physicians advice to undergo surgery only after the pregnancy meets full term.
  • Sleeping Position and Exercises: Make sure your sleeping position is well and comfortable and that you are not lying on your back. Try to keep your neck at a natural angle this way your airway will not be blocked. Advice about various exercises can also be taken from your physician which might help in relieving a patient of sleep apnea. They also help in keeping the patient’s weight under control as well ensure an active and healthy lifestyle.

Sleep apnea can be dangerous for both baby and the mother. It is recommended to follow the precautions mentioned in the article or visit a physician in severe condition.s