Could snoring during a pregnancy increase health risks?

October 03, 2012 12:00 AM by

There are several less-than-ideal side effects that some women experience during a pregnancy, and snoring is often one of them. In fact, a recent study from the University of Michigan found that 25 percent of the 1,700 pregnant women surveyed reported that they started snoring during their pregnancies. But could snoring be an indication of health issues down the line?

Researchers discovered that women who never used to snore but started doing so at least three or four times a week during a pregnancy were twice as likely to develop high blood pressure and preeclampsia than pregnant women who didn't.

"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," said Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., who was the lead author of the study.

If you're wondering what snoring has to do with high blood pressure, here's the lowdown – any obstruction or pause in breathing while you're sleeping increases the activity of the nervous system, which then increases blood pressure. Inflammation is also associated with breathing problems, which plays a role in preeclampsia.

Interestingly enough, women who were chronic snorers weren't at as much of a risk of experiencing high blood pressure and preeclampsia as women who had just started. So if you've always been a snorer, your body is probably used to the sensation and can handle the difficulty.

But what if you did start snoring after you found out you were pregnant? The researchers believe that some of the high blood pressure and preeclampsia cases could be helped by treatment.

First, try lying on your side when you sleep (you should be doing this anyway to make yourself more comfortable and prevent pressure from being applied to the vena cava, the vein responsible for carrying blood to and from your heart).

Next, make sure that you're putting on a healthy number of pounds. Weight gain is often responsible for snoring cases even in people who aren't pregnant, so be sure to watch what you eat, exercise and stay within your doctor's recommended range.

Special mouthguards and other devices are also available from your doctor, so if all else fails, bring the topic up at your next appointment.

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