TUESDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women who snore three or more nights a week are more likely to have a cesarean section and smaller babies, a new study finds.
The findings suggest that treating snoring in pregnant women may help reduce health problems among newborns and the associated medical costs, according to the University of Michigan Health System researchers.
They looked at 1,673 pregnant women, 35 percent of whom reported regular snoring. Compared to non-snorers, those who snored before and during pregnancy (chronic snorers) were two-thirds more likely to have a small baby and more than twice as likely to have an elective C-section.
The study, published in the Nov. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, is believed to be the largest of its kind to link a mother's snoring to her baby's health.
"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," lead author Louise O'Brien, an associate professor at U-M's Sleep Disorders Center and an adjunct associate professor in the obstetrics and gynecology, said in a university news release.
"We've found that chronic snoring is associated with both smaller babies and C-sections, even after we accounted for other risk factors. 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," she explained.
A previous study led by O'Brien found that women who begin snoring during pregnancy are at high risk for high blood pressure and preeclampsia -- a condition in which a pregnant woman experiences sharp rises in blood pressure along with protein in her urine and other symptoms.
Snoring is a key sign of obstructive sleep apnea, which can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
"Millions of health care dollars are spent on operative deliveries, taking care of babies who are admitted to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] and treating secondary health problems that smaller babies are at risk for when grown," O'Brien said.
"If we can identify risks during pregnancy that can be treated, such as obstructive sleep apnea, we can reduce the incidence of small babies, C-sections and possibly NICU admission that not only improve long- term health benefits for newborns but also help keep costs down," she said.
While the study found associations between snoring in pregnancy and an increased likelihood of C-section delivery and smaller babies, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery has more about snoring.
SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, Oct. 31, 2013
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