According to research from the University of Michigan, women who start to snore during their pregnancy are at strong risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
Lead author Louise O’Brien, Ph.D., associate professor in U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center says the research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed pregnancy-onset snoring was strongly linked to gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.
“We found that frequent snoring was playing a role in high blood pressure problems, even after we had accounted for other known risk factors,” says O’Brien. “And we already know that high blood pressure in pregnancy, particularly preeclampsia, is associated with smaller babies, higher risks of pre-term birth or babies ending up in the ICU.”
With more than 1,700 participants in the study, it is believed to be the largest of its kind. This is the first study to demonstrate that pregnancy-onset snoring confers significant risk to maternal cardiovascular health.
Habitual snoring was defined as snoring three to four nights a week, the hallmark symptom of sleep-disordered breathing. About 25 percent of women started snoring frequently during pregnancy and this doubled the risk for high blood pressure compared to non-snoring women.
O’Brien writes that these results suggest that up to 19 percent of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy might be mitigated through treatment of any underlying sleep-disordered breathing.
Using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, pregnant women can be treated for sleep-disordered breathing. The CPAP, connected to a mask worn during sleep, uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. It’s possible that use of CPAP may decrease high blood pressure in pregnant women, and O’Brien has such a study currently underway to test this hypothesis.
O’Brien says, “Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading global cause of maternal and infant deaths and cost billions of dollars annually to treat.”
“By asking pregnant women about snoring, especially in those with high blood pressure already, obstetric healthcare providers could identify women at high risk for sleep-disordered breathing and intervene during the pregnancy. This could result in better outcomes for mother and baby.”
Additional authors: All from the University of Michigan: Ronald D. Chervin, M.D., M.S.; Alexandra S. Bullough, MBChB, FRCA; Jocelynn T. Owusu, M.P.H.; Kimberley A. Tremblay, M.S.; Cynthia A. Brincat, M.D., Ph.D.; Mark C. Chames, M.D.; and John D. Kalbfleisch, Ph.D.
Journal reference: doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2012.08.034
SOURCE University of Michigan Health System