Snoring in Pregnancy – risks and remedies

About one in four women report frequent snoring; another 25% report occasional snoring by the last week of their pregnancy. For a small number of these women, snoring may be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea – fragmented sleep and excessive sleepiness during the day.

This is not good news. Generally women try to be as healthy as possible throughout their pregnancy, eating well, exercising appropriately. But if they are snoring, they are not breathing well, and the mother’s breathing during pregnancy can affect not only her own health and energy levels but also that of the baby.

Research has suggested that heavy snoring or sleep apnoea in pregnancy may be associated with high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, low birth weight babies, and low Apgar scores. The Apgar score is used to assess a baby’s health immediately after birth.

Snoring can be related to weight gain – which is part of a normal pregnancy – but that does not make snoring normal.

What you can do to improve your breathing

Heavy breathing by day sets you up for heavy breathing by night. By being mindful to breathe through your nose during the day whenever it is comfortable to do so, or to breathe more gently through your mouth when you cannot manage nose-breathing, you will be setting yourself up for more gentle breathing at night- and therefore less likelihood of snoring. Another advantage is that breathing slowly and gently is also very calming.  It also allows your body to better use oxygen.

You don’t need to stop exercising – simply try walking or cycling for example, at a slower pace, where you keep your breathing comfortable and in control, and preferably through your nose (or more gently through your mouth).

Three best tips to reduce likelihood of snoring:

  • Sleep on your side rather than your back and try elevating your upper body/head end of the bed slightly using a special wedge-shaped pillow or a folded blanket placed between mattress and base.
  • Avoid or reduce mouth-breathing in the daytime and in bed – breathe through your nose whenever you comfortably can, or at least try to breathe more gently through your mouth.
  • Avoid any activity that makes you breathe heavily, puffing and panting through your mouth.

A common comment several days after applying these suggestions is: “I had the best sleep in decades last night.”

NB: If there is concern about snoring or apnoea, it is important the person checks with their doctor to determine whether further medical evaluation is necessary.

By Tess Graham

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