Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy
While sleep apnea is known to be more common in men and those who suffer from obesity, the disorder can have an effect on pregnant women as well, particularly those in their third trimester. With the multitude of less than favourable side effects pregnancy can instil, trouble sleeping is quite common. The heavier you are prior to becoming pregnant and the amount of weight you gain during your pregnancy are both factors as to whether you may develop sleep apnea. The tissue in your throat and neck increases with weight gain, which may cause sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is mostly due to trouble breathing while sleeping. When extra tissue is involved, the folds fall back against your throat, causing your airway to block, reducing the flow of oxygen. This is why sleep apnea patients will suddenly wake up gasping for air or snorting/snoring while asleep. Sufferers of sleep apnea rarely remember these occurrences, and often need their bed partner to monitor their sleep in order to get an idea of what’s happening.
In addition to weight gain during pregnancy, swollen nasal passages are another reason pregnant women can suffer from sleep apnea. Estrogen levels increase with pregnancy, contributing to the swelling of mucous membranes in the nose. Blood levels also increase and blood vessels expand, further contributing to the swelling of the mucous membranes.
Monitoring your sleep habits, and getting your partner to as well, will help in determining whether or not you have sleep apnea. The drop in oxygen levels in your blood which occurs from breathing less frequently is harmful for your health and for the growth of your baby. Pregnant women who suffer from sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). Also, at the time of delivery, sleep apnea patients are more often in need of a C-section, and some babies may suffer from breathing problems.
To prevent sleep apnea from developing, or to manage it effectively, ensure you don’t sleep on your back as this is the way neck and throat tissue collapses against your throat. Using adhesive breathing strips to open up your nose is a great way to regulate oxygen intake. Most importantly, if you are over-weight, speak to a health care professional to help you come up with a suitable plan to manage your weight better, as maintaining a healthy weight is the most effective form of treatment. In more severe cases, you may be given a special mouth guard to wear while you sleep, ensuring your airways are kept open. You’ll awake feeling much more refreshed and well-rested, drastically improving the quality of your day, and your mood.
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