Although some disruptive sleep is expected during pregnancy, repeated patterns of interrupted breathing throughout the night is not common. If the uneasy sleep is due to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and the condition is left untreated, the complications may be severe. Therefore, it is important to distinguish restless sleep from untreated sleep apnea—especially during pregnancy.
In one small study, researchers found that 10.5% of women in the first trimester and 26.7% of women in the third trimester had OSA.1 The data suggests that potentially many pregnant women are unknowingly dismissing symptoms as pregnancy-related rather than indications of a treatable medical condition. Left untreated, complications from OSA include daytime fatigue, migraines, an inability to concentrate or focus. Over time, OSA can contribute to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and strokes.
Sleep Apnea in Women
Sleep apnea tends to occur in one out of four women. As women are reaching menopause about 20 percent or more women will develop sleep apnea. This percentage is influenced by other factors (besides gender) such as body mass index. About 14 percent of women ages between 55 to 70 have severe sleep apnea when their BMI is equal or greater than 30.
Is Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy Dangerous?
Women with untreated sleep apnea during pregnancy face numerous health risks to themselves and their unborn children. Women with sleep apnea were also more likely to develop preeclampsia, which is a high blood pressure disorder that occurs during pregnancy, according to experts. Babies born to mothers who suffer from OSA are more likely to be delivered via cesarean section and admitted to neonatal critical care units.
Why are Some Pregnant Women at Risk for Sleep Apnea?
In one study, 15% of the women diagnosed sleep apnea were obese and suffering from chronic high blood pressure. Obesity, as we know, is a significant contributing factor for sleep apnea in both men and women. Therefore, pregnancy may intensify the risk of sleep apnea in women already obese. Left untreated, this can cause health concerns for both mother and child.
What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea While Pregnant?
A sleep test may be needed to diagnose OSA if one or more of these symptoms are present:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up gasping or choking for air
- Excessive daytime fatigue
- Morning headaches
- Moodiness, forgetfulness, or difficulty concentrating
Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea & Pregnancy
Despite the fact that sleep apnea is uncommon in pregnant women, it is still crucial to have a good diagnosis. Undiagnosed sleep apnea during pregnancy can lead to problems with the child’s growth, as well as other health concerns and issues. Sleep apnea problems may often improve after pregnancy.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy
If you think you may be at-risk for sleep apnea, purchase a Complete Care Package from Sleep Care online. With Complete Care:
- At checkout, fill out a brief sleep & health questionnaire
- Receive your disposable WatchPAT ONE E home sleep apnea test in the mail
- Take the test, and in the morning upload your results to the cloud
- Schedule a 15-minute telehealth visit with one of our board-certified sleep doctors
- Receive your script for PAP therapy, if warranted