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Will My Sleep Apnea Cause Problems With My Pregnancy?

pregnant woman staring out a windowSleep apnea affects many aspects of your life, and if you’re pregnant, it can cause potential health problems for both you and your baby.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that’s often associated with chronic loud snoring. It’s characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep, and although this can occur hundreds of times a night, many people don’t realize that the pauses in breath are occurring.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

This disorder can be caused by:

  • Obesity – excess weight can make the soft tissue of your mouth and throat more likely to block your airway when they relax during sleep
  • Nasal congestion – issues such as allergies, colds, or chronic sinus infections can block your airways
  • Structural abnormalities – having nasal polyps (benign growths) or a deviated septum (a crooked wall of bone and cartilage) that separates your nose into two nostrils increases your risk of sleep apnea
  • Pregnancy hormones – pregnancy hormones may congest the mucous membranes of the upper airway, which can contribute to the development of sleep apnea

How Common is Sleep Apnea in Pregnancy?

It’s hard to know exactly how many pregnant women have sleep apnea since many are undiagnosed. But it’s known that women are more likely to develop sleep apnea during pregnancy, and if you already have this sleep disorder when you become pregnant, it may get worse.

Becoming pregnant at an older age can increase your risk of having sleep apnea. It’s also more common in pregnant women who have high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia - a pregnancy condition that’s characterized by high blood pressure, swelling of your hands and feet, and having protein in your urine.

What Effect Can Sleep Apnea Have On Your Pregnancy?

Sleep apnea can have negative effects on your own health as well as that of your baby’s. It can increase your risk of having the following:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm delivery
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Greater likelihood of needing a cesarean delivery
  • A low birth-weight baby
  • A baby that required neonatal intensive care, often for breathing problems

How Can You Reduce the Chances of Sleep Apnea-Related Pregnancy Problems?

The following can help reduce your risk:

Watch your pregnancy weight gain

Keep your weight gain within limits suggested by your doctor. This is usually about a 25 to 35-pound gain but can be reduced to between 11 and 20 pounds if you’re obese.

Be aware of symptoms of sleep apnea

Know the common symptoms of sleep apnea, such as chronic loud snoring, pauses in breathing witnessed by a partner, excessive daytime sleepiness (beyond what you’d normally feel from pregnancy) and morning headaches or dry mouth.

Seek diagnosis and treatment

A sleep specialist can confirm or rule out a diagnosis of sleep apnea and provide appropriate treatment. This can include oral appliance therapy, which involves wearing a mouth guard at night to help keep your airway open.

If you’d like to be tested for sleep apnea, make an appointment today with Dr. Marc Levin of eos dental sleep in Philadelphia, PA. We’ll test for sleep apnea, and if you have this sleep disorder, we’ll provide the most effective possible treatment to help protect your health as well as your baby’s health.