Sleep apnea is a severe ailment that influences breathing during sleep and impacts nearly 26 percent of pregnant women, as reported by Contemporary OB/GYN. The correlation between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and pregnancy needs to be correctly understood because this serious disorder places both the mother and baby at risk.
Read more to learn about clearly-recognized risk factors, symptoms, and treatments of obstructive sleep apnea for securing the health of both the mother and child.
Sleep Apnea Risks to Pregnant Mothers
According to Live Science, mothers who have sleep apnea are at a greater risk of complications. One of the potential dangers is C-section delivery, with 65 percent of mothers having sleep apnea requiring surgical birth compared to 33 percent without the condition.
Sleep apnea also enhances the risk of preeclampsia, which is a serious pregnancy complication. About 42 percent of mothers with sleep apnea will develop preeclampsia compared to 17 percent of those without sleep apnea.
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy
Sleep apnea in pregnancy occurs due to higher levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones that lead to fluid retention in the body. The fluids usually collect around the neck during sleep, which expand the nasal passages and mucous membranes. Also, these hormones relax several muscles in anticipation for the growing baby. This can loosen the upper airway and partially close it, giving a mother very little room to breathe properly. The combined effect of the smaller airway, fluid retention, and congestion ultimately causes sleep apnea in many women.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms in Pregnancy
It's difficult to diagnose sleep apnea during pregnancy because many of the symptoms are considered part of the pregnancy experience. Typical symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Waking up with gasping or choking
- Frequent night-time urination
- Breathing pauses during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
These problems get complicated as the pregnancy progresses, with moms in their third-trimester having more complications than first trimester moms. The sleep study is an essential diagnostic tool used by doctors to determine if your sleep problems are due to sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Risk Factors for Pregnancy
While all pregnant women, in general, are at a slight risk for sleep apnea, some factors can multiply that risk significantly. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) list the following risk factors:
- Old age
- Unusual shape of the face or neck
- Abnormal pregnancy weight gain
- Troubled breathing at night
Also, undiagnosed sleep apnea before pregnancy in women, along with pregnancy hormones, can worsen the problem
If you are a mom-to-be and diagnosed with sleep apnea, get it treated quickly to reduce the health risks for you and your baby. Treatment options for sleep apnea include:
- A CPAP machine is the best and safest treatment for sleep apnea to keep continuous positive airway pressure during sleep.
- Close monitoring by medical professionals will help ensure that the appropriate pressures are used during pregnancy, depending on body changes.
- It is recommended to continue using the CPAP machine after pregnancy until your doctor deems you do not need to use it.
Fortunately, with the right treatment, sleep apnea risks during pregnancy are significantly reduced. If you are struggling with breathing disorder during sleep, discuss sleep apnea testing and treatment with your doctor to avoid potential complications.
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