Can Pregnancy Cause Sleep Apnea?

January 18, 2024

Filed under: Uncategorized — bettersleepdent @ 5:32 pm

Pregnant woman relaxing in bedDid you know that 39 million adults in the US have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)? An obstruction created by the tongue or soft tissues in the back of the mouth can cause frequent breathing disruptions throughout the night. This can lead to potentially life-threatening complications with no treatment. Although anyone can develop OSA, various factors increase your risk, including pregnancy. If you’re not getting enough oxygen while you’re sleeping, your baby is also being deprived. Here’s what you need to know to keep you and your little one healthy.

Pregnancy and Sleep Apnea

Many pregnant women snore, especially in the last trimester. Although snoring is normal occasionally, it can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. Researchers estimate that sleep apnea affects 26% of all pregnancies. 

Several things can contribute to the onset of sleep apnea during pregnancy, like higher levels of hormones. An increase in certain hormones can cause more mucus production that can lead to nasal congestion. Higher levels of progesterone can cause your airway to relax because it activates certain muscles. 

Not to mention, you’re going to gain a little weight, which can put more pressure on your airway. This can make it more difficult to breathe when lying down. Your growing baby can also put pressure on your lungs. Added pressure can reduce your air volume, which can increase your breathing rate. 

Most women also sleep on their backs as they progress through their pregnancy. Sleeping on your back can lead to sleep apnea episodes.

With no treatment, you can be at risk of several health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Weakened immune system

You can also experience several pregnancy complications, like:

  • Gestational hypertension
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Prolonged labor
  • Unplanned cesarean sections
  • Preeclampsia
  • Obesity Hypoventilation syndrome

Sleep Apnea and Your Baby

Your baby can also suffer from the effects of sleep apnea. Pauses in your breathing can cause your blood pressure to rise, which changes your blood vessels. There is a reduction in blood volume pumped into your heart. As a result, this can affect blood flow to your baby, causing your little one’s oxygen to drop.

Your baby’s heart rate declines, which can cause fetal growth restriction. Your baby can be born smaller than their gestational age. Disrupted sleep quality from breathing disturbances can also lower the amount of growth hormone that’s released. This can lead to growth and development problems. You can be at risk of preterm birth and potentially the death of your baby.

Thankfully, sleep apnea is easy to treat with an oral appliance. It will keep your airway open, so you and your little one can breathe easier.

About Dr. Sara Saba

Dr. Saba achieved her dental degree at the University of Maryland at College Park and has continued her education in many specialties, like Invisalign and Mandibular Advancement Devices. Request an appointment through her website or call her office at (301) 460-3331 to see if an oral appliance is right for you.

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