Tag Archives: pregnancy hormones

Pregnancy Induced Sleep Apnea

I’m 28 weeks pregnant, and often times when I sleep I get a shortness of breath which wakes me suddenly gasping for air. I’ve never had a problem like this before. It sounds like the symptoms of sleep apnea. Can I get pregnancy induced sleep apnea?

Melissa A. – Utah

Melissa, 

You are right in your idea of what sleep apnea is. It is a sleeping disorder, where there are pauses in your breathing. Instead of breathing in and out normally, you will spontaneously stop breathing and start back up again.

This can happen several times during the night. The incidence of sleep apnea in women of childbearing age is somewhere between one to ten percent. Lots of people may have sleep apnea without even knowing it. Women in particular, are more likely to develop sleep apnea during pregnancy and after menopause. Shortness of breath, along with restless sleep are very common in pregnancy, and alone aren’t indicative of sleep apnea.

It is actually quite rare in an otherwise healthy woman with an uncomplicated pregnancy. It is more common in women with high blood pressure, preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. However, do keep in mind that during pregnancy, the physical changes you experience may contribute to the development of sleep apnea. Also, pregnancy hormones can congest the mucous membranes of the upper airway; that congestion can increase the likelihood of sleep apnea.

It’s advisable to keep your weight gain within the recommended limits (not easy in pregnancy, I know), and talk to your doctor about any symptoms you are having. They can do further testing, such as a sleep study, which is the best way of getting an accurate sleep apnea diagnosis.

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