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Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy Do Not Mix: Treatments for Expectant Mothers

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Are Pregnant Women at Risk for Developing Sleep Apnea?

Pregnancy can be very dangerous. When a woman is with child, her risk of suffering illness or injury is greatly increased. Carrying a child means supporting the healthy functioning of two bodies; sometimes pregnancy puts too much pressure on the body and causes Sleep Apnea.

  • Weight Gain: When women gain weight during their pregnancy, excess tissue accumulates around the neck. Pregnant women are at a much higher risk for developing Sleep Apnea because due to their weight gain, especially in the third trimester of pregnancy. In addition, women who are overweight before they get pregnant have a higher chance of becoming obese during pregnancy. There is a vicious cycle between Sleep Apnea and weight gain. Pregnant women are more likely to experience obstructions in the airway; the extra tissue around the throat makes it more difficult to breathe during sleep.
  • Blood Level Changes: During pregnancy, women experience higher levels of blood in the body; the heart is pumping blood for two people. When the amount of blood in the body increases, blood vessels in the body get larger.
  • Fluid Retention: Pregnant women carry an immense amount of fluids in their abdomens. When the body starts to retain fluid during pregnancy, the fluid puts extra pressure on the respiratory system. As the uterus grows to make space for the developing baby, extra pressure is placed on the diaphragm, and the upper airway becomes compromised increasing the risk of apnea occurrences.
  • Higher Estrogen Levels: Women produce high levels of Estrogen during pregnancy, and this excessive hormone production can lead to an increased risk of developing respiratory problems, especially Sleep Apnea. High Estrogen levels in the body can cause the sensitive membrane the lines the inside of the nasal passage to swell. When the sensitive tissues swell, the body produces higher levels of mucus than normal. The swollen nasal passages and increased level of mucus production create the ideal environment for apnea episodes to take place.

What are the Signs of Sleep Apnea in Pregnant Women?

The signs and symptoms of Sleep Apnea can be hard to spot in anyone, but pregnant women have to pay particular attention. Some signs of Sleep Apnea may appear simply be symptoms of pregnancy.

  • Poor Sleep Quality: Most pregnant women experience a restless night or two; the additional weigh causes pressure and discomfort in many expecting mothers. When sleeping patterns become a consistent pattern of disrupted insufficient sleep, however, it could be a cause for concern. Sleep Apnea is undiagnosed in the majority of the patients who suffer from it because the symptoms of the disorder often camouflage into other health problems. If you’re pregnant and you can’t seem to sleep through the night, make sure you talk to a doctor. Proper sleep quality is vital to the health of you and your baby, and a medical professional will be able to help you find the root cause of your sleeping troubles.
  • Gasping/Choking: Pregnant or not, it’s not normal to wake up repeatedly throughout the night struggling to breath. Oxygen deprivation is the quickest way to hurt the brain. The healthy development of a child during pregnancy is dependant upon the health and performance of the mother. When the mother is starved for oxygen, so is the child. When apneas occur, patients wake up choking or gasping for air when their breathing functions become interrupted.
  • Fatigue: If you’re pregnant, and you can’t seem to maintain your energy levels, make sure that you meet with your doctor. Being a healthy and proactive mother will help ensure a healthy baby. Severe daytime sleepiness and fatigue can be a sign of a much deeper problem, especially in pregnant women. Arousals from apneas prevent productive, regenerating sleep in pregnant women and hinder their level of activity during waking hours.

What Complications Can Sleep Apnea Cause in Pregnant Women?

  • High Blood Pressure: A woman’s body in working in overdrive during pregnancy, and all parts of the body feel the extra pressure. Episodes of Sleep Apnea cause the body to release inflammatory proteins that damage the heart. Pregnant women with Sleep Apnea experience a lot of additional pressure on the heart. High blood pressure (hypertension), heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and strokes have been reported in Sleep Apnea patients.
  • Preeclampsia/Eclampsia: While the direct cause of Preeclampsia is unknown for certain, medical research suggests that it is connected to changes in breathing patterns. Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, is categorized by the heightened blood pressure levels, increased amount of protein in urine, and feminine swelling in pregnant women. Women with Sleep Apnea must become very weary of Preeclampsia around the twentieth week of their pregnancy. Many symptoms of Preeclampsia are identical to Sleep Apnea symptoms: fatigue, headaches, snoring, and even frequent urination. Preeclampsia can seriously affect the health of your baby; the condition has been linked to mental retardation, premature delivery, low birth weight, and the hindrance of the growth hormone.
  • Accidents: The ability to focus and concentrate during the day relies upon sleeping enough during the night. Pregnant women are very prone to waking up during the night and pregnant women with Sleep Apnea wake up a lot. The brain is not able to repair the damage that it endures during the day and cannot function properly during waking hours. Pregnant women have to be very aware of their physical activity; slight, seemingly insignificant movements can cause serious pregnancy complications. When an expecting mother is not able to keep her focus during the day, she is endangering her health and the health of her baby. Sleep Apnea patients who experience frequent arousals during the night often experience dangerous accidents due to their lack of focus.

Pregnancy should be an exciting and joyous experience. Being well-informed on the dangers associated with Sleep Apnea and pregnancy can help prevent the occurrence of serious complications in the future. Expecting mothers should find a medical professional that they and totally comfortable sharing the intimate details of their pregnancy with. The best way to protect against pregnancy complications is to be educated on the risks.

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