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Sleep apnea during pregnancy: what is it and what are its symptoms

During pregnancy, it is normal and very common for a woman’s sleep habits to change . Like many other changes in her body and her routine, this is due to the hormonal and emotional changes that women go through at this stage.

One of the most frequent sleep problems during pregnancy is insomnia, but there are others that can also occur. We tell you about sleep apnea during pregnancy : what it is, what its symptoms are and how it can affect you and your baby.

Sleep apnea in pregnancy

Sleep apnea during pregnancy is a respiratory disorder in which you stop breathing for a few seconds, depriving the brain of oxygen.

These pauses can last at least 10 seconds without involuntary breathing and in the most severe cases, up to 40 seconds . These episodes can happen in isolation or occur up to hundreds in one night.

But in addition to causing poor rest by not allowing deep sleep to be had, sleep apnea results in arrhythmia, drowning, restlessness and sleep interruptions (the brain is “activated” to breathe again, waking the person ).

In pregnancy, the onset of this disorder is favored by hormonal changes , since progesterone increases the inflammation of the throat and estrogens contribute to inflammation by relaxing the circulatory pathways.

Due to the narrowing of an area in the throat and with the muscles in the upper part of the throat relaxed during sleep, breathing may stop for a time.

Sleep apnea symptoms in pregnancy

A common sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring accompanied by gasping or choking during sleep . Snoring in people with sleep apnea is caused by air trying to escape through a narrow or blocked airway.

However, we must bear in mind that the simple fact of snoring does not necessarily mean that you have sleep apnea. These are other symptoms that could occur:

  • Feeling very sleepy during the day, that is, falling asleep quickly during quiet times of the day, when resting.
  • Headaches in the mornings.
  • Memory problems and trouble concentrating.
  • Feeling of irritability or depression, or changes in mood or personality.
  • Waking up frequently to urinate.
  • Dry mouth or throat upon waking.

Although, hopefully, you are most likely simply going through a difficult “bad sleep” stage, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor.

Risk factors for sleep apnea during pregnancy

As we mentioned at the beginning, sleep apnea can appear in pregnancy due to the hormonal changes that the woman’s body experiences, however there are certain risk factors that can favor its appearance.

An investigation carried out at the Rush Medical Center of the University of Chicago, determined that seven out of ten pregnant women with gestational diabetes could suffer from sleep apnea , especially if there are other risk factors such as hypertension, which by itself increases in a high way risk of apnea, according to another study.

Having obesity should also be something to take into account, as studies have found that mothers who suffer from it have a higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea in pregnancy.

Consequences of sleep apnea in mother and baby

According to some research, sleep apnea that is not treated poses a cardiovascular and metabolic risk for the baby, increasing the risk of being born with low weight or also being born prematurely.

In the case of the mother, a study found that when she suffers from sleep apnea during pregnancy, the risk of developing other complications such as gestational diabetes or hypertension increases, which in turn can lead to pre-eclampsia.

In addition, of course, we have the consequences on the energy of mothers, since those who suffer from apnea sleep little and do not get enough rest, which could generate other problems at the time of delivery , such as premature delivery, cesarean section or very long labor .

Photos | iStock
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