Sleep Apnea and Pregnancy
When you finally meet your precious baby, would you ever want to think about him or her not breathing? Of course not. Therefore, if you think you may have a condition called OSA that makes it hard for your baby to obtain oxygen inside you, seek treatment sooner rather than later.
What is OSA?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA, is a condition seen in many people from children to adults. Apnea is a Greek word that means, “want of breath.” Apnea is when someone stops breathing. Obstructive is a blockage. In this case, the obstruction is in the throat, during sleep.
This is a critical condition to seek treatment upon to avoid potential detrimental effects. It is scary to listen to as a partner of someone who has it, and if you are expecting, your baby is suffering from lack of oxygen too.
How Do I know if I have it?
Your partner may notice it first. It is noticed when you heavily snore and then stop breathing for a few seconds. A few seconds overtime is a long time, up to one hundred times a night! One hundred times a night is a longtime and therefore, there can be detrimental effects not only to you, but your baby. You, as the mother, are oxygenating two people, if you stop breathing for yourself, you will stop breathing for your baby.
Another symptom may be excessive daytime sleepiness, even if you think you slept well. This is not the occasional tired feeling that you know can improve with a cup of coffee. This is a constant, day after day, type of drowsiness.
Who is at Risk?
Mothers who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk due to excessive neck tissue that can block the airway when relaxed, or sleeping. Also, excessive swelling of the nasal passages makes anyone who is pregnant at risk because of the estrogen hormone that is produced. When estrogen is produced, excess mucous may be present as well.
Why is it dangerous if it Goes Untreated?
There have been numerous studies done by highly credited schools and OBGYNs with results showing that women with severe sleep apnea had the highest incidence of gestational diabetes, preterm birth, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, early preterm birth, and/or low birth weight.
These conditions are associated a lot with negative stress and lower oxygenation to the placenta. Without the placenta, the baby will not get oxygen, or even live. With the stress of no oxygen, or a limited supply, the baby can become compensated and, therefore, deliver early or add a potential risk to the mother’s health. When there is a treatment available, no baby should go without oxygen. Sleep apnea with no treatment is like going underwater and never taking a full breath of air when coming up from the water.
What To Do If You Think You Have OSA?
If you feel you may have sleep apnea, it is very important to contact your doctor who can refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist may want to perform a sleep study that could save your life.
A sleep study is done in a clinic, but can also be used at home. A home setting for a sleep study may benefit the mother because discomfort is very common during pregnancy and sometimes your own bed may be the only comfortable place.
If you are diagnosed with OSA, it is important to use the CPAP machine. This will give constant oxygen to your baby and you. After pregnancy, your sleep apnea may resolve, depending on the cause. Until then, it is critical for your baby, and you, to have oxygen during pregnancy. After treatment, you will feel alert again and can enjoy the rest of pregnancy.