Snoring may be a sign of pregnancy complications to come

Many people are affected by snoring, whether it's their own or their partner's. And while it may seem annoying or at times even comical, for pregnant women it can be a real health concern - for their babies.

A new study published in the scientific journal Sleep explores the relationship between snoring and certain birthing complications. Researchers from the University of Michigan have linked episodes of chronic snoring to instances of low birth weight and both elective and emergency C-sections.

The study included 1,673 women between the years of 2007 and 2010. Approximately 35 percent of participants were reported to be chronic snorers, and all participants were pregnant. Researchers found that moms who snored were about 66 percent more likely to give birth to smaller babies, generally within the 10th percentile (meaning 90 percent of babies at the same gestational age were larger). Researchers also found that chronic snorers were twice as likely to require a C-section, whether it was an elective or emergency procedure.

Moms who snored more than two times a week faced a heightened risk of these outcomes. According to researchers, the timing of the snoring patterns was also indicative of risk. Those who snored before as well as during pregnancy had the highest risk of poor birth outcomes, whereas those who only experienced chronic snoring while pregnant only experienced an increased risk of C-section delivery.

"There has been great interest in the implications of snoring during pregnancy and how it affects maternal health but there is little data on how it may impact the health of the baby," said lead author Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., M.D., , who is the 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. "This suggests that we have a window of opportunity to screen pregnant women for breathing problems during sleep that may put them at risk of poor delivery outcomes."

Sleep apnea and snoring during pregnancy
Snoring may be caused by a number of factors, including the shape of the mouth and nasal structure, the amount of alcohol an individual consumes and whether they experience sleep apnea, according to the Mayo Clinic. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute defines sleep apnea as a condition in which an individual experiences one or more pauses in breathing during sleep or experiences shallow breaths. This in turn can reduce blood oxygen levels, which can have other undesirable health effects.

Snoring can be a signal of obstructive sleep apnea, however, women who are experiencing this condition may seek treatment through continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP. Treatment involves wearing a sleep mask over the mouth and nose to help ensure proper air flow to the sleeping person.

According to O'Brien, identifying and treating conditions such as sleep apnea may help reduce instances of small babies and unwanted C-sections. Finding an effective treatment may also help keep the costs associated with birth down for both patients and hospitals.

Are you worried about what your snores may signify about your pregnancy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.