Sleep disorder during pregnancy increases chances of developing diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on December 26, 2016

Studies have found that pregnant women who suffer from the sleep disorder apnea are more likely to develop diabetes and high blood pressure.

Apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that involves repeated stops and starts in breathing. The researchers from the United States found that women with the condition were almost twice as likely to develop what’s known as preeclampsia, a type of pregnancy related high blood pressure, and up to 3.5 times more likely to develop pregnancy related diabetes.

sleeping‘Although we found an association with sleep disordered breathing preceding the development of both pregnancy related hypertensive disorders and gestational diabetes, we cannot conclude that universal screening for, and treatment of sleep disordered breathing in pregnancy would reduce the risks of these adverse outcomes,’ said lead study author Dr. Francesca Facco of the University of Pittsburgh’s Magee-Women’s Hospital.

She explained that this is because even among people who are not pregnant, there isn’t conclusive evidence that the most common treatment for apnea can reduce the risk of developing hypertension or diabetes.

The most common treatment for apnea is a breathing mask worn at night. The masks are connected to a machine that provides continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which splints the airway open with an airstream so the upper airway can’t collapse during sleep.

Some patients can’t tolerate sleeping with CPAP machines and Facco believes that this kind of intervention may not make sense for pregnant women, particularly if they have only mild apnea.

‘We do not know if treating sleep-disordered breathing in pregnancy will improve clinical outcomes in pregnancy, and our study cannot answer that question,’ she explained.

The study involved sleep tests on 3,000 women. Early in pregnancy between six and 15 weeks gestation some 3.6% of the women had apnea. Later in pregnancy when they had gained more weight, between 22 and 31 weeks gestation, some 8.3% of the women had apnea.

Overall, 6% of the women had preeclampsia, 13% had pregnancy related hypertensive disorders and 4% developed gestational diabetes and the study also shows that early in pregnancy women with apnea were 94% more likely to develop preeclampsia, 46% more likely to have hypertensive disorders and 3.5 times more likely to develop diabetes than women without sleep disordered breathing.

Women who had apnea later in pregnancy were 95% more likely to develop preeclampsia, 73% more likely to develop hypertensive disorders, and 2.8 times more likely to have diabetes than women without sleep disordered breathing.

The researchers pointed out that study was observational and doesn’t prove apnea causes these pregnancy complications and limited by using home based sleep tests which could have left some cases of apnea undetected, potentially underestimating the prevalence of sleep disordered breathing.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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