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Sleep Apnea More Common Than Believed in Pregnant Women

Update Date: Jun 02, 2014 08:54 PM EDT

A new study reveals that one in two pregnant women with hypertension may have unrecognized obstructive sleep apnea, according to a new study.

The findings are important as obstructive sleep disorder, which reduces blood oxygen levels during the night, can lead to serious health problems, according to researcher at the University of Michigan.

Researchers also found evidence that a quarter of hypertensive pregnant women who don't score also unknowingly suffer sleep apnea.

"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," lead author Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., M.S., associate professor at U-M's Sleep Disorders Center in the Department of Neurology and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the U-M Medical School, said in a news release.

"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 added.

Researchers said that previous studies have linked sleep apnea in pregnant women to higher C-section rates, smaller babies, hypertension and preeclampsia.

"Hypertensive pregnant women who report snoring should be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea since sleep apnea can be treated during pregnancy," said 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," she concluded.

The findings are published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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