London: Women who begin snoring during pregnancy are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a new research from the University of Michigan has revealed.

The research showed pregnancy-onset snoring was strongly linked to gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, said lead author Louise O'Brien, Ph.D., associate professor in U-M's Sleep Disorders Center.

"We found that frequent snoring was playing a role in high blood pressure problems, even after we had accounted for other known risk factors. And we already know that high blood pressure in pregnancy, particularly preeclampsia, is associated with smaller babies, higher risks of pre-term birth or babies ending up in the ICU," said O'Brien.

The study is believed to be the largest of its kind, with more than 1,700 participants. It is the first study to demonstrate that pregnancy-onset snoring confers significant risk to maternal cardiovascular health.

Habitual snoring, the hallmark symptom of sleep-disordered breathing, was defined as snoring three to four nights a week. About 25 per cent of women started snoring frequently during pregnancy and this doubled the risk for high blood pressure compared to non-snoring women.

O'Brien writes that these results suggest that up to 19 per cent of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy might be mitigated through treatment of any underlying sleep-disordered breathing.

Pregnant women can be treated for sleep-disordered breathing using CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). It involves a machine, worn during sleep, which uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. It is possible that use of CPAP may decrease high blood pressure in pregnant women, and O'Brien has such a study currently underway to test this hypothesis. The research was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


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