Many women who are otherwise healthy sleepers will develop snoring during pregnancy and potentially even sleep apnea. Research confirms that these breathing problems during sleep aren’t just potentially harmful to the mother–they can cause oxygen deprivation for the baby as well.

Detroit sleep dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness in Rochester Hills can help women understand the severity of their sleep apnea and get the treatment that is effective, comfortable, and convenient.

How Common Is Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy?

Women are generally at a lower risk for sleep apnea than men. However, during pregnancy, sleep apnea is common. Experts estimate that as much as 26% of women develop sleep apnea during the third trimester.

Few of these women had sleep apnea before pregnancy, and even a healthy weight and lifestyle before pregnancy does not protect against sleep apnea during pregnancy.

pregnant person holding their belly

Oxygen Shortage Affects the Fetus

Oxygen deprivation during sleep apnea affects both the mother and the child. In one study, researchers looked at preserved placental slides to determine whether the fetus was affected by sleep-disordered breathing. Among women with healthy airflow during sleep, only 6% of placentas showed signs of oxygen shortage. Among women who snored, 35% of placentas showed signs of oxygen shortage, and among women with sleep apnea, 57% did.

A different marker for oxygen deprivation showed up in the placentas of about 58% of women without sleep-disordered breathing. However, in 82% of snorers and 91% of women with sleep apnea, placentas showed signs of chronic oxygen deprivation.

Potential Pregnancy Risks Related to Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea during pregnancy is a serious risk for the mother and baby. Women with sleep apnea during pregnancy are five times more likely to die from complications at the hospital shortly before or after birth. This includes an increased risk of heart dysfunction and blood clots that cause pulmonary embolism. 

In addition, sleep apnea can increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as:

  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Preterm delivery
  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Low birth weight

There does not seem to be an increased risk of fetal death or miscarriage. However, some studies suggest that the effects of gestational sleep apnea may follow a child for a year or more. 

Challenges for Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea in Pregnancy

But the diagnosis of pregnant women with sleep apnea is already lagging behind. Partly that’s because sleep apnea diagnosis overall isn’t as accomplished as we would like, with 80% of sufferers going undiagnosed.

We need better screening procedures for pregnant women. Few pregnant women are told about the risk of sleep apnea during pregnancy. Even fewer are actually screened for the condition, even though they often complain to their doctor about sleep problems, including snoring.

If we want to make sure women have the best chance of having a healthy pregnancy and giving their child the best odds of a happy, successful life, we need to make sure women know about sleep apnea and that they are screened for the condition.

Women who were healthy before pregnancy might not think to ask their doctor about sleep apnea. They might notice the primary symptoms–snoring and daytime sleepiness–and think they are normal, expected, and harmless consequences of pregnancy.

If women remain undiagnosed, they will not get the necessary treatment to avoid additional complications.

Comfortable and Convenient Sleep Apnea Treatment in Detroit

Sleep apnea treatment seems important for the health of the mother and child. However, it can be hard to decide on the proper sleep apnea treatment for you. 

Generally, CPAP is considered the gold standard of sleep apnea treatment. However, it can take as much as three months to adapt to this treatment. Since most women develop sleep apnea in the third trimester, it might not seem worth it 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. It’s easy to pack along with other items you take with you to the hospital if necessary. 

If you are looking for more information about sleep apnea diagnosis, risks, or treatment in the Detroit area, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment with sleep dentist Dr. Jeffrey S. Haddad at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness in Rochester Hills.