In a recent study, it was found that babies born to women
with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) were more likely to be admitted to the
neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in comparison to babies born to unaffected
women. All the women included in the study were obese.
with sleep apnea had a greater chance to develop preeclampsia, a condition in which a woman's blood pressure
is increased during pregnancy and is compelled to deliver her baby through a
Sleep apnea, in general, is a condition that is little
researched and hence remains under- diagnosed, particularly in pregnant women.
This calls for better ways to diagnose and treat sleep-related conditions in
pregnant women, according to study researcher Judette Louis, an assistant
professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of South Florida.
During sleep, there is paucity in breathing in persons
with sleep apnea. In those with OSA, the pause in breathing occurs due to a
blocked airway. Obese individuals are at an increased risk for OSA because the
extra fat can accumulate inside the windpipe and block air passage. In the
recent research, 175 obese pregnant women were monitored using a portable
device in their homes and it was discovered that 15% of the participants had
These individuals also had chronic high BP than those
without OSA. 42% of those with OSA had pre eclampsia in comparison with the 17
% without sleep apnea. Also, 65% of the women with sleep apnea required a
C-section while only 33% of those without OSA needed the section. However, the
rate of premature births was similar between the groups.
46 % of babies born to mothers with sleep apnea required
to be admitted to the NICU in comparison to the 18 % of babies born to
unaffected moms. The majority of these
children had breathing problems.
The study only included obese women and hence it
is not clear whether sleep apnea could have the same effect in women who have
optimal weight. The results of the study have been published in the journal
Obstetrics & Gynecology (online).