Pregnant and snoring? When to worry

Maternal snoring puts women at greater risk of health issues such as high blood pressure and poor delivery outcomes but how do you know if you need treatment?

BlogPregSo your partner tells you that in addition to all of the obvious physical changes from pregnancy, you have also started to snore.

Is it just another irritant on the list of pregnancy nuisances or a serious concern for your health and your baby’s health?

I’ve been studying the link between maternal snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, and mom and baby health for several years. My most recent study found that chronic snoring  (snoring before and during pregnancy) makes women 65 percent more likely to deliver small babies and more than twice as likely to have a C-section as non-snorers. This is true even after other known risk factors, such as obesity, are accounted for.

The reasons for this link are still unclear although we think that it may be related to inflammation, which may change the development of mom’s blood vessels that go to the placenta. This likely results in reduced blood flow to the baby and poor fetal growth.

Last year, our research also found that moms who started snoring during pregnancy were at more than double the risk for high blood pressure and also increased risk of preeclampsia.

While snoring one night a week may not be anything to worry about, habitual snoring (three nights or more) may be.

Snoring may be caused by the weight gain or fluid retention that most pregnant women experience. It is often a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing problem that can cause poor sleep and reduce blood oxygen levels during the night but not all women who snore will have this condition. The only way to tell if obstructive sleep apnea is present is to undergo an overnight sleep study. In cases of mild sleep apnea, sometimes simply changing sleeping positions can help. Pregnant women should stay off of their backs and instead sleep on their sides.

However, if you experience any of the following, you may need a medical evaluation.

Don’t ignore snoring if you also:

• wake up gasping for air or feel like you’re choking
• have high blood pressure
• snored before pregnancy and it’s gotten worse

It’s a misconception that pregnant women should avoid any treatment. The standard treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which involves a machine worn during sleep and uses air pressure to keep the airways open. It is safe to use during pregnancy. We are currently looking at whether CPAP during pregnancy can improve health outcomes for you and your baby.

Take the next step:


OBrien_louise_BoilerLouise O’Brien, Ph.D., M.S., is an associate professor at U-M’s Sleep Disorders Center in the Department of Neurology, adjunct associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and associate research scientist in the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery at the U-M Medical School.



university of michigan women's hospitalUniversity of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible.  From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need.  Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.