According to a new study — snoring that starts during pregnancy could be a sign of breathing problems that put women at risk for high blood pressure — a potentially dangerous complication for both mother and baby.
Findings of the study show that women who begin snoring while pregnant are twice as likely to have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, preeclampsia, compared with pregnant women who did not snore.
The findings were still relevant after the researchers took into account other factors that could affect blood pressure, such as the mother’s race, age, smoking habits and weight gain during pregnancy.
Risks of high blood pressure
High blood pressure in pregnancy is linked with an increased probability of giving birth to a smaller baby and premature birth.
The study however only found an association, and not a direct cause-effect link.
But if breathing problems during sleep do in fact increase blood pressure in pregnant women, the researchers estimate that up to 19 percent of pregnancy-related high blood pressure cases, and 11 percent of preeclampsia cases, could be prevented or helped just by treating snoring.
According to the study researcher Louise O’Brien, an associate professor at the University of Michigan’s Sleep Disorders Center, -the new findings suggest that screening pregnant women could help identify those at risk for hypertensive disorders.
An earlier study published in September found that babies born to women with sleep apnea were more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit.
“If sleep apnea really is playing a role in these outcomes, then this is a clear opportunity that we can intervene and hopefully improve some of those pregnancy outcomes,” O’Brien said.
Pregnancy and any weight gain, increases the risk for breathing problems during sleep, including snoring, the researchers said. Earlier studies have also linked breathing problems in sleep to an increased risk of high blood pressure in the general population.
Among those whose snoring began during pregnancy, about 10 percent had pregnancy-related hypertension, compared with 4.5 percent of those who did not snore.
In addition, 13 percent of those whose snoring began during pregnancy had preeclampsia, compared with 8 percent of those who did not snore.