A recent medical study reported a fairly unique finding: pregnant women who snore frequently are at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes. The Associated Professional Sleep Societies (TAPSS) reported that 24 percent of habitual snorers had an official diagnosis of gestational diabetes as opposed to 17 percent of nonsnorers. As gestational diabetes affects 4 to 6 percent of all pregnant women, this study is significant according to Louise O’Brien, Ph.D who is associated with the department of neurology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Snoring is nothing new among women but it becomes more pronounced with the onset of menopause or weight gain. Approximately one-third of all women in the U.S. are obese according to USA Today and are at risk for snoring and sleep apnea. Being overweight can cause bulky throat tissue which then physically blocks air flow. Up until the publication of the University of Michigan study, the health risks associated with snoring included: greater than 10 seconds of interruptions of breathing; frequent waking from sleep; potential strain on the heart which then results in hypertension, increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. Now the tide has changed.
A study involving 1,221 pregnant women were questioned as to whether they snored three or more times a week and nearly 31 percent of women were habitual snorers in their third trimester. The snorers had formal diabetic screening tests that confirmed the diagnosis of gestational diabetes. So, what does this mean clinically? Ideally, pregnant women who are snorers should receive patient education literature that discusses the importance of the one-hour glucose screening. Obese pregnant women who snore three or more times per week should be tested sooner rather than later for gestational diabetes. A confirmed test of gestational diabetes should prompt a visit to the high-risk maternal-fetal specialist at the patient’s earliest convenience.
As medicine continues to advance so does the opportunity for greater patient awareness and education. Remember, a healthy pregnancy doesn’t just happen. It takes a smart mother who knows what to do.