A new study published this week in the Journal Human Reproduction found that obese pregnant women have a much higher chance of miscarriage or suffering from their child dying before the first birthday. Not too surprisingly, pre-eclampsia was the most common reason for these obesity-related deaths. Gestational diabetes increased as well.
We know that any significant weight gain can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Then why is it that pregnant women don’t develop sleep apnea? One possible reason why this may not happen as often is that progesterone increases significantly during pregnancy. Progesterone is an upper airway muscle stimulant, increasing tongue muscle tone significantly. This is one way it protects against apnea-promoting effects of weight gain.
However, if you gain too much weight, or if there are other stresses in your life that hormonally diminishes the protective effects of progesterone, then you’ll have more problems breathing at night, leading to or aggravating various pregnancy complications. High blood pressure (seen in pre-eclampsia), and diabetes are more likely in people with sleep apnea.
What’s just as important is what happens after delivery: Progesterone drops, but you’re left with all that weight. By definition, your sleep quality will drop significantly. This is one mechanism that can aggravate post-partum depression. Imagine how much worse it may be if you also lose your child.
If you’re a woman and are overweight and have sleep apnea, did you suffer any miscarriages or pregnancy complications in the past?