Many women who are otherwise healthy sleepers will develop snoring during pregnancy, and potentially even get sleep apnea. Now a new study confirms that these breathing problems during sleep aren’t just potentially harmful for the mother–they can cause problems for a baby’s development.
The Effects of Oxygen Shortage on the Fetus
To determine the impact of sleep disordered breathing–either snoring or sleep apnea–on the development of the fetus, researchers looked at a sample of 148 women. Of these, 23 had sleep apnea, 78 were habitual snorers, and 47 were healthy controls. Sleep apnea sufferers had been identified before their pregnancy, but snorers and healthy controls were identified with a questionnaire during their visit to deliver their baby.
To determine whether babies experienced oxygen shortage due to their mother’s breathing, researchers looked at preserved placental slides. Although they had placental slides for all mothers with sleep apnea, they only had 27 from snorers and 40 from controls.
Researchers looked at two signs of oxygen deprivation: normoblastemia and carbonic anhydrase IX. In normoblastemia, red blood cells with nuclei are seen in circulation in a fetus after the first few days of development. This is considered a sign of oxygen deprivation because the body is rushing blood cells into circulation rather than letting them mature first. It may be linked with bone marrow problems and brain development delays. Among controls, only 6% of women had normoblastemia, but 35% of snorers did, and 57% of women with sleep apnea.
Carbonic anhydrase IX is a marker of recurrent oxygen deprivation. It was found in about 58% of women without sleep disordered breathing, but it was found in 82% of snorers and a full 92% of women with sleep apnea.
Comfortable and Convenient Sleep Apnea Treatment
Researchers note that the clinical impact of their research remains to be determined, but if you are a pregnant woman with sleep apnea, there are many reasons to get treatment. It’s already hard enough finding the energy to get through your day–why let sleep apnea sap your energy further? And with the potential impact on your baby, treatment seems that much more important.
But you might not want to take the time to try to adapt to CPAP when your snoring or sleep apnea may go away after pregnancy. On the other hand, an oral appliance is much more comfortable and easy to adapt to. And it doesn’t take up as much room so you can store it or use it intermittently as necessary.