A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) reveals that pregnant women who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are five times more likely to die of health complications in the hospital than pregnant women who don’t suffer from this sleep disorder.
According to a USF blog post, this is the first large-scale study in the United States to examine the link between sleep apnea and maternal death.
The source reports that the researchers reviewed 55 million maternal-related hospital discharges from 1998 through 2009. They found that those with sleep apnea were at greater risk of developing severe medical conditions that are considered top causes of maternal death. These include preeclampsia, eclampsia, an enlarged heart and pulmonary blood clots.
"The astounding association with maternal death was surprising," said Dr. Judette Louis, lead author of the study. "I did not expect to find such a difference in mortality between pregnant women who had sleep apnea and those who did not, especially when we controlled for obesity and other complicating factors.”
Dr. Louis explained that the physiological demands of pregnancy may be part of what causes the increased likelihood of maternal death for those with sleep apnea, but noted that additional research is necessary to better understand this association.
This study serves as a reminder of how important it is to keep sleep apnea symptoms under control – particularly if you’re pregnant. Fortunately, with the help of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and other effective methods of treatment, it’s possible to reduce the risk of severe health complications related to sleep apnea.