Pregnancy, Sleep, and Prenatal Health
October 01, 2019
Submitted by Koala Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders
From the moment the pregnancy test turns positive, a new mom is thinking of her baby. For first-time mothers, along with the excitement comes a host of questions and concerns. What should I eat? What shouldn’t I eat or drink? Which prenatal vitamins are the best? How do I know if I’m exercising enough or gaining the proper amount of weight? These are all good questions to address with your doctor at your prenatal checkups. But while you are clarifying which cheeses you can still eat, you might also consider asking your doctor about another important, yet frequently overlooked, pregnancy concern: your sleep.
While it may seem like common knowledge that pregnancy and fatigue go hand-in-hand, when it comes to pregnancy sleep, it’s important to know what’s normal and what’s not. Unfortunately, according to the National Sleep Foundation, “pregnancy can be a time of serious sleep disturbance, even for women who have never had problems sleeping.” While common issues like frequent urination, general aches and pains, and overall fatigue can make sleep difficult, pregnant women are also at greater risk of developing sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). “OSA is a form of sleep disordered breathing that is fairly common in pregnancy, but not always discussed between pregnant women and their healthcare providers,” says Dr. Gray at Koala Center for Sleep and TMJ Disorders in Bloomington.
OSA is a chronic condition in which the airway collapses during sleep, leading to complete or partial blockages of airflow. A typical sequence of OSA occurs when a person stops snoring and is silent for seconds or minutes. The brain may cause the body to jerk in an attempt to wake the sleeper so breathing will resume. The silence may end with a loud snort, cough, or gasp. This causes the sleeper to awaken briefly and begin breathing. Once asleep again, the muscles relax and the airway becomes blocked once again. This cycle can occur hundreds of times per night. If left untreated, OSA may lead to heart attack, stroke, and even death. Pregnant women are at greater risk for OSA if they snore frequently, are of advanced maternal age or began pregnancy at a high body mass index (BMI).
OSA presents unique complications to both mother and baby during pregnancy. Dr. Gray notes that, “Obstructive Sleep Apnea can cause premature birth in a baby. When the oxygen levels go down in the mother, they will in-turn drop for the baby, which can be very risky for that child.” In fact, one large study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology reported an increased risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and low Apgar scores among women with confirmed OSA. Infants are not the only ones at risk. Another study, published in the journal SLEEP, found OSA to be associated with increased risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and maternal death.
Because OSA carries serious risks for mother and baby, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and to make your partner aware of them as well. While lifestyle changes, such as sleeping on your side, avoiding excess weight gain, and establishing a consistent sleep schedule can help, if you suspect you might have OSA, consider having a discussion with your doctor about getting a sleep study. A sleep study can help to identify whether you have OSA and, if so, what the severity is.
If you are diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options available, including lifestyle changes, surgery, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), and Oral Appliance Therapy. Oral Appliance Therapy works to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep, thus preventing snoring and interruptions in sleep. Treating your sleep apnea can lead to better outcomes for you and your baby.
For more information contact the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders in Dunlap, IL at 309-243-8980 or visit PeoriaSleep.com. Dr. Rod Willey provides treatment for snoring, sleep apnea, and Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD) with comfortable oral appliance therapy.
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