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The Dangers Of Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy

Dr Martin Abelar - February 10, 2022 - 0 comments

Along with the joys of pregnancy, there can also be side effects that are cause for concern. Things like gestational diabetes, pregnancy gingivitis, preeclampsia, and now a new study is highlighting the dangers of another pregnancy-related illness: sleep apnea.

While sleep apnea may not occur in all pregnant women, or even in women prior to pregnancy, it can occur during pregnancy, especially in the last two trimesters, as additional weight and pressure on the airway could increase in pregnant women.

Sleep apnea can cause many problems besides just the characteristic stopping and restarting of breathing, gasping for air, snoring, and low blood oxygen levels. It can also worsen conditions like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cause depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment- and that’s just in the mother.

According to a recent study by the University of Wisconsin – Madison, sleep apnea during pregnancy can also cause problems in unborn babies, a serious issue that should be addressed and screened for in pregnant women.

The study used lab rats to determine the exact effects of sleep apnea on the rats developing babies and found that when the mother rats were deprived of oxygen during sleep, so to were the unborn baby rats. This caused impairment in the babies postpartum, including impairment similar to autism markers in human children. This included behaviors such as social, cognitive, and distress vocalization. Interestingly, the cognitive issues only occurred in male rats, not the female.

The baby rats also had heightened activity in a cell signaling pathway called the mTor pathway found in the cortex of the brains of persons with autism.  Scientists used a mTor inhibitor on the lab rats (Rapamycin), which did show minor improvement in the rats.

Unfortunately, the connection between the blood oxygen levels of the pregnant rats and the distress caused to the mTor inhibitor is still not known, but what is known is how important it is to treat sleep apnea, regardless of if you are pregnant or not.

If you are looking for a solution to your sleep apnea, a custom sleep orthotic could be your solution. Dr. Abelar offers sleep orthotics that can be made to fit your mouth and that are more comfortable than CPAP machines. They’re also easier to clean, easier to transport and work without requiring electricity.

To learn more about sleep apnea and sleep orthotics, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office in San Deigo today.

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