Women who snore when they are pregnant may be at risk of developing dangerously high blood pressure that could threaten their lives when they give birth. Around 10% of pregnant women suffer from pre-eclampsia, a condition in which high blood pressure can lead to injury or even death in the mother and the foetus.
Women can try to reduce their blood pressure by resting or with medication. But drugs may put the foetus at risk, and sometimes even the maximum dose fails to get blood pressure down. New Scientist magazine reports that a team from Umea University in Sweden have discovered that breathing problems that cause snoring may be a risk factor.
Dr Franklin and colleagues gave questionnaires to 453 pregnant women. While only 4% reported frequent snoring before pregnancy, 23% snored by the end of their pregnancies. Around 10% of the snoring women had pre-eclampsia, while only 4% of non-snorers developed the condition. All patients with pre-eclampsia started snoring before any hint of pre-eclampsia, such as blurred vision, appeared.
High blood pressure can be dangerous A second study by the University of Sydney produced similar findings.
Dr Natalie Edwards and her colleagues at the University of Sydney looked at 32 women with severe pre-eclampsia and 40 with normal pregnancies and found that all the women with pre-eclampsia were snorers.Women with the highest degree of airway obstruction during sleep also had the highest blood pressures.
The Australian researchers found that they could prevent both the snoring and the high blood pressure by giving women breathing masks attached to a machine that kept their airways open while they were asleep.
Lincolnshire GP Dr Martyn Walling, a member of the Primary Care Gynaecology Group, said "Snoring can be more common in pregnancy because women who are 30-40 weeks pregnant can find it uncomfortable to sleep on their side, and have to start sleeping on their back." Dr Walling said women should have regular ante-natal checks on their blood pressure, weight, fluid retention and urine so that any symptoms of pre-eclampsia were picked up as soon as possible.