Pregnant women are at a greater risk of developing sleep apnea. Those who already have the condition may experience more severe symptoms as they undergo hormonal changes. More pressingly, does this affect the unborn child? Learn what the studies reveal about sleep apnea during pregnancy and what expectant mothers can do to minimize sleep disruption.
Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy: Statistical Information
Roughly one to 10% of pregnant women suffer from sleep apnea. It’s difficult to pinpoint a precise figure since most people with the condition are unaware of it. Further studies show that pregnant women diagnosed with sleep apnea are at a greater risk of hypertension and gestational diabetes.
In addition, one-third of pregnant women reported getting fewer than the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. This leads to fatigue during waking hours, in turn leading to symptoms associated with sleep apnea, such as loud snoring, morning migraines, and dry mouth.
Sleep Apnea: Risks to the Mother
Pregnant women with obstructive sleep apnea are at an elevated risk of developing health complications. For starters, they are 174% more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit. They are also 122% more like to develop preeclampsia, a condition that leads to high blood pressure and excessively high levels of protein in the urine. This stresses the kidney and puts the organ at risk of long-term damage.
Can Sleep Apnea Affect the Baby During Pregnancy?
Sleep apnea during pregnancy may have an adverse effect on the unborn child. The condition causes disturbed sleep, which can affect growth hormone production that impacts fetus development. The baby is also more likely to be born underweight, delivered by cesarean section, and spend more time in a neonatal intensive care unit.
How Can Pregnant Women Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms?
Expectant mothers should take measures to improve their sleep rhythms if they or their spouse notice sleep apnea symptoms.
Avoid Sleeping on Your Back
Sleep experts recommend that pregnant women sleep on their left side with their legs in a slightly curled position. This is believed to be the optimal posture for delivering oxygen to the organs and to the developing fetus. When you lie on your back, the uterus places weight on the veins, which can restrict blood flow to the heart and lower extremities.
Minimize Weight Gain
Weight gain is normal during pregnancy. However, you should keep it minimal by adopting a healthy diet and exercising routinely. Women having twins are especially at risk of significant weight gain. For most pregnant women, the average weight gain is 25 to 35 pounds. Try to limit the gain to no more than 20 pounds. Sleep apnea is more prevalent among obese women and men.
Use a Humidifier
Dry air can irritate the respiratory system and close the airways. Adding moisture to the air helps reduce congestion and promotes an opening of the airways. For maximum effect, add a few drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil. Essential and natural oils have anti-inflammatory effects and may soothe the respiratory system.
Practice Deep Breathing
Sleep apnea is partly caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Try deep diaphragmatic breathing to increase oxygen intake. Do this for five minutes four to five times per day. You can also try yoga, which incorporates deep breathing into many of its poses and movements.
Get Professional Sleep Assistance
If you’re pregnant, it’s not just your own well-being you have to be worried about. Your sleep patterns now affect two people. If you’re a soon-to-be mother and experiencing nightly sleep disturbances, consult with Dr. Maestri at SleepWell Louisiana in Lafayette, LA.
Our state-of-the-art sleep apnea dental device uses WatchPAT Technology which enables patients to sleep in the comfort of their own homes while we collect valuable data. Contact us today to find out more about our at-home sleep apnea tests and oral appliance therapy!