PhotoNew research finds that half of pregnant women who have high blood pressure and who snore may have undiagnosed sleep apnea, a condition that can reduce blood oxygen levels and cause serious health effects for both mother and child.

One in four hypertensive pregnant women who don't snore are also at risk, according to the University of Michigan-led study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"We know that habitual snoring is linked with poor pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child, including increased risk of C-sections and smaller babies," says lead author Louise O'Brien, adjunct associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical School.

"Our findings show that a substantial proportion of hypertensive pregnant women have obstructive sleep apnea and that habitual snoring may be one of the most telling signs to identify this risk early in order to improve health outcomes," O'Brien said.

Habitual snoring – snoring three or more nights a week – is the hallmark symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which has been shown to increase in frequency during pregnancy. and affects up to one-third of women by the third trimester.

Previous studies

O'Brien's previous studies have found that snoring during pregnancy may influence delivery and baby's health, with a higher risk for C-sections and delivering smaller babies. Women who begin snoring during pregnancy are also at a strong risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia, O'Brien's research has shown.

"Hypertensive pregnant women who report snoring should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea since sleep apnea can be treated during pregnancy," says O'Brien, who is also a member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

"Prompt recognition, evaluation, and management will not only improve health benefits for both moms and babies but may also help cut the high healthcare expenses of operative deliveries, taking care of babies who are admitted to the NICU and other associated health risks."

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