For most women, pregnancy is a time of excited planning, and dreaming about the future. It should be one of the happiest and most memorable times in the life of a woman; you are about to give birth to a miracle. For some women, however, pregnancy can be a time of great worry and stress. Because giving birth is such a delicate process, it is important for pregnant women to be as healthy and comfortable as possible. Women suffering from sleep apnea are at a heightened level of risk during pregnancy. Women are more susceptible to sleep apnea during pregnancy, and many of the risk factors associated with sleep apnea can have serious effects on the health of the mother and of the child.
Therefore, it is imperative that women who suffer from apneas, the slowing or stopping of breath during sleep, are well educated on the special risks that occur while pregnant. In addition to understanding the risks, it is important to understand the preventative measures that can help assuage the risks.
Common Risks of Sleep Apnea during Pregnancy:
The most obvious risk of sleep apnea is oxygen deprivation. When breathing is corrupted during the night, and the level of oxygen coming into the body is compromised; the blood oxygen level in the body drops. This can be harmful to the mother, and especially to the fetus. The most common cause of brain damage is oxygen deprivation.
The obstruction of breathing causes sudden awakenings in the night. These awakenings ensure a fitful night of restless sleep which leads to daytime sleepiness and general fatigue. Sleep is imperative to the health of any person, and especially a pregnant woman. The body needs uninterrupted, proactive sleep that helps heal the daily damage done to the body. Daytime sleepiness is also one of the most common causes of accidents. Sleepiness leads not only to a lack of energy, but also to a lack of focus.
One of the most dangerous risks of sleep apnea is high blood pressure. When the respiratory system is not supporting bodily organs and functions, the heart has to work harder to make up for the change. Medical research supports links found between the high blood pressure caused by apneas and serious pregnancy problems like preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a very serious condition in which a pregnant woman’s blood pressure is abnormally high, she is experiencing swelling in the body, and there is protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can cause serious harm to the baby including, but not limited to, low birth weight, premature delivery, and in the most serious cases death.
Simple Measures to Help Prevent Sleep Apnea during Pregnancy:
- The easiest way to protect against sleep apnea is to be aware of the symptoms. Women with sleep apnea often snore, and women who did not have problems with snoring before pregnancy should pay attention to any changes. It is harder for people suffering to be aware of the symptoms. In many cases, it is the bedmate who notices the symptoms: snoring, restless sleep, and gasping for air.
- Try wearing nasal strips during sleep. They widen the nasal passage; making the airway more open during times of congestion.
- Try to refrain from using nasal decongestants that can be purchased over the counter. In many cases, these medicines aggravate the symptoms and make the problem worse.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of clear fluids everyday; this helps thin the mucus that causes congestion.
- Use an extra pillow. Elevating the head while sleeping can help congestion from blocking or obstructing your airways.
- Add moisture to your home with a vaporizer or a humidifier. This helps you breathe easier and combat congestion.