Is There a Link Between Pregnancy and Sleep Apnea?

Have you noticed your sleep getting worse as your pregnancy progresses? Are you waking up tired? If so, you may have Sleep Apnea, a condition that can develop during pregnancy. Does pregnancy cause Sleep Apnea? How can Sleep Apnea impact your baby? Find the answers to this and other questions you may have about Sleep Apnea and pregnancy.

Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy

Sleep Apnea and pregnancy don’t sound like two things that would necessarily be linked together. At least, not at first glance. But, when you think about it, there are many changes going on in your body when you’re carrying a child.

These changes affect the way you move and, yes, the way you sleep. Even a subtle shift in the way you sleep can create a condition that is ripe for Sleep Apnea to develop. So, let’s explore the link between the two.

is pregnancy a potential cause for sleep apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

The most common explanation for Sleep Apnea is that it is a condition in which your upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly while you sleep. When this occurs, your airflow is either greatly reduced or blocked completely. This can cause snoring, a decrease in blood oxygen levels, or even cardiac trouble or stroke. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Sleep Apnea may be caused by your physical structure or by medical conditions.

does pregnancy impact sleep apnea

Is Pregnancy a Cause of Snoring/Sleep Apnea?

The answer to this question is yes and no. The pregnancy itself isn’t the direct cause of Sleep Apnea. It does, however directly cause the swelling and essential fluid overload throughout your body that creates an atmosphere that is ripe for Sleep Apnea.

Here’s what happens to your body while you’re pregnant. All of these things can cause Sleep Apnea and most of them wouldn’t be happening if you weren’t pregnant:

  • You produce higher than normal levels of estrogen and progesterone, causing greater fluid retention throughout the body.
  • Your body creates nearly 50 percent more blood than normal while pregnant.
  • Muscle tone throughout the body changes as your body relaxes to accommodate a growing baby, this causes the upper airway to relax and creates less space for breathing.

These changes combine to create an atmosphere in your body that is virtually ideal for snoring and obstructions which cause Sleep Apnea, inexorably linking Sleep Apnea and pregnancy.

symptoms of sleep apnea during pregnancy

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy?

You may or may not notice the symptoms of Sleep Apnea during pregnancy. It is far more likely that your partner will notice them first. Sleep Apnea at this critical time goes well beyond simple snoring in pregnancy, even though snoring is one of the signs to look for. Especially when accompanied by breathless pauses after which you seem to choke, sputter, cough, or gasp for air.

  • Waking up with dry mouth
  • Morning headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Frequent nighttime visits to the bathroom (unfortunately, this is a typical pregnancy symptom, too – especially as your pregnancy progresses)

If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to notify your doctor so he or she can schedule a sleep study to diagnose Sleep Apnea.

how can sleep apnea cause pregnancy complications

What are the Risks of Developing Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy?

There are a few correlations between Sleep Apnea and pregnancy complications, including links between Sleep Apnea and the following:

  • Preeclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preterm deliveries
  • Low birth weight

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel as Sleep Apnea is a highly treatable condition. That means that by discussing your concerns with your physician you can get help promptly.

what are the potential risks to your baby if you develop sleep apnea during pregnancy

How to Treat Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy

There are several options for treating Sleep Apnea during pregnancy. Some of them are better tolerated than others.

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP): The continuous positive away pressure (CPAP) machine is one of the most common treatments for Sleep Apnea during pregnancy and is highly effective. It works by supplying a constant flow of air into your nose and mouth while you sleep. This prevents airway obstructions that would otherwise disrupt sleep.
  • Oral Appliances: Other treatment options include oral appliances that must be custom made for you. You wear them while you sleep, and they help to keep your airway open.
  • Surgery: Surgery is the least attractive option for treating Sleep Apnea during pregnancy. Surgery may be warranted, however, if there is a structural defect causing your Sleep Apnea. Most physicians, though, will wish to wait until after your pregnancy to move forward with surgery unless there are massive extenuating circumstances.

woman wearing cpap mask

Is Using a CPAP Safe?

Using a CPAP machine is incredibly safe, especially if you take care when cleaning your CPAP machine to prevent the buildup of germs and bacteria. The real benefit of using a CPAP while pregnant is that it helps to ensure you get the sleep you need so your body can accommodate the growing body it carries. And when you sleep better, you’ll feel more energized, which is helpful in doing all the things you want to do to prepare for your baby’s arrival.


Get More Information About CPAP Therapy and Sleep Apnea

Need CPAP help? Our CPAP experts are standing by to help you with questions about our products, sleep disorders, and more, in addition to helping you place your order for a CPAP machine that will help you get the restful, productive sleep you require while pregnant. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for Sleep Apnea treatment news, deals and money saving coupons.

David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.

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