Snoring in Pregnancy May Affect Mother's Blood Pressure and Baby's Size
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According to Franklin and colleagues, the findings indicate "that the consequences of increased upper airway resistance during sleep may affect the fetus and supports the previously suggested relationship between sleep apnea and intrauterine growth retardation." Babies with intrauterine growth retardation have delayed development and are smaller than average.
The authors say that all the women in their study who were habitual snorers reported that snoring started prior to any sign of high blood pressure or protein in the urine. The researchers conclude that obstruction of the airways during the night is a likely contributor to the development of high blood pressure and preeclampsia in pregnancy, although the exact mechanisms by which snoring could contribute to high blood pressure are unknown.
But a sleep expert who has conducted similar research tells WebMD that while the findings are intriguing, there is little evidence in the general population that snoring alone is associated with any health risks. "Snoring as an indicator of sleep-disordered breathing ... is a different story. That has been noted to be associated in a number of studies with [high blood pressure]," says Daniel Loube, MD. "The frequency of sleep-disordered breathing in a population of pregnant women is going to be relatively low, and to say that snoring by itself is a cause of intrauterine growth retardation is a very long reach."
Loube, who is the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, says that the use of questionnaires rather than clinical sleep studies that could differentiate snoring from sleep-disordered breathing makes it difficult to put much weight into a connection between snoring in the mother and growth retardation in the fetus.
Loube says about one-third to one-half of pregnant women snore, largely as a result of increasing fluid retention in the nasal passages as pregnancy progresses.