Sleep Apnea: find out about it!
from Kara & Shannon

While on a discussion board recently, someone posted a note letting members know that they had finally found some answers from their doctor. They were diagnosed with Sleep Apena. In the discussion, information was shared like the following:

  • Symptoms usually start out with snoring
  • Unusually sleepy during the day
  • Wake up several times at night with no particular reason
  • Odd sounds while sleeping, especially gasping for air or related sounds
  • Heartburn (can become so bad people actually start losing lung tissue)
  • Memory problems
  • Migraines/visual disturbances

This person then shared that their doctor had told them that lack of oxygen caused by sleep apnea can actually go so far as to cause damage to vital organs like liver, etc.. I was so alarmed when hearing this because I myself dealt with this kind of thing when pregnant -- and I've met many other stillbirth moms who have told me of disturbances in their sleep patterns. If the effects to me could be this severe, then how in the world did this affect my child during pregnancy?? Could this have affected the outcome of my pregnancy?!!!!

So I asked on the board if anyone had any more information and discovered some of the following:

WebMD (though not always the most reliable source) says this: "Sleep apnea, especially if it's severe and causes your blood oxygen level to drop during sleep, is a risk to the fetus." Click here to see the page.

Shannon, our researcher on this, did add that WebMD does "neglect to provide any statistical data or case histories...:" though. So Shannon dug into more sources.

At Women's Health in the News, this article was found:

Saying: "Swedish researchers reported that habitual snoring during pregnancy is linked to a higher risk of preeclampsia and fetal growth retardation. In the study group, hypertension occurred in 14% of
women who snored compared to 6% of women who didn't snore. In addition, preeclampsia developed in 10% of snorers verses 4% of non- snorers. The authors noted that habitual snoring was also associated with obstructive sleep apnea, suggesting that upper airway obstruction might contribute to the development of pregnancy-induced hypertension and preeclampsia. [Chest (2000;117:137-141)]".

And at

Posted By: Yasir N. Tashkandi, MD <>
Date: Friday, 14 April 2000, at 4:30 a.m.

Fetal growth and survival depend on adequate oxygen delivery from the maternal circulation. Normal maternal Oxygen delivery requires optimal cardiac output, hemoglobin concentration and oxygen saturation. A compromise of one, or combination, of these factors in a pregnant woman leads to placental ischemia. Placental ischemia is associated with obstetrical complications and fetal growth retardation. Maternal sleep apnea (during pregnancy) is an under- recognized reason for fetal hypoxemia. Prolonged apneas during sleep cause frequent episodes of severe nocturnal desaturation. This drop in maternal oxygen saturation will dramatically affect her systemic oxygen delivery, including delivery to the placenta. Hence, prompt treatment of Sleep apnea may prevent development of preeclampsia and infant low birth weight. Both snoring and sleep apnea are more common in pregnant than nonpregnant women(secondary to hormonal changes of pregnancy).

So though we found nothing regarding sleep apnea that says the word stillbirth exactly (my son was stillborn, that's why I was looking for the word), I felt "hypoxemia" was close enough!! And doing searches for the words "hypoxemia" and "stillbirth" together, led me to some interesting leads on medical papers about studies done with animals. Since I'm not a scientist (and couldn't decipher it all) and couldn't afford the subscriptions to the full papers anyway, I'm not able to draw more from them!! arg. But I could see in reading these things that maybe, just maybe, the sleep apnea should have been addressed more directly in my pre-natal care!! I'd like to at least call for more study of possible connections!!!! And ways to address this as a risk!!!

I do know the MOMStudy asks tons of questions about lots of aspects, and I soooooooooo hope that some information arises out of that about sleep apnea in relation to stillbirth outcomes??? We won't know, probably until later 2005 or maybe even 2006, about the results of this study, but I'm encouraged that they are gathering responses in the THOUSANDS! And from women all over the world. I hope they will be able to shed significant light on ALL risks, possibly sleep apnea included -- though I don't know if this is something they are looking at or not?? BUT I encourage you to go over to their site and do the study yourself!! If you know you had sleep apnea during a pregnancy that had a stillbirth outcome, please mention it in the area where you can leave notes and details!! Be sure to give them as much detail as you can about all possible risks you faced. Every bit of information will be helpful!!

If you are pregnant now, especially if you are pregnant again after a loss, please talk with your doctor about sleep apnea and any risks it may cause during pregnancy. Make sure you aren't at risk for it. Or if you are at risk or know you have it, then find out what they can do to help you!! For your own organs!! For your child's!!

About the Authors
Kara is a freedom fighting guerrilla artist who has recently taken to henna as a solace and form of expression. Check out her new site at:

Shannon is an awesome participant on our Kota board and has a wicked sense of humor! Thanks, Shannon for all your help in searching items for this article!!!!

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