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Cause of Snoring in Pregnancy Revealed

EUROPEAN RESPIRATORY JOURNAL
February issue // (Vol. 27, Number 2)

An Edinburgh research team has recently discovered that women are 2-3 times more likely to snore during pregnancy.

Following a study of 100 women who were at least 6 months pregnant, Professor Neil Douglas and his colleagues at Edinburgh University found that women in the last trimester of pregnancy are more than twice as likely to snore than non-pregnant women of the same age. They also found that the percentage of snorers among the pregnant women rose from 12% before pregnancy to 41% during the third trimester. Sleep apnoea was present in 14% of the pregnant women studied as opposed to only 3% of the controls.

So why do women snore during pregnancy?

Douglas and his colleagues found a clear link between a pregnant woman's weight and her likelihood of snoring. Additionally the pregnant women who snored had a greater neck circumference than the non-snorers.

What was of particular interest to the Edinburgh team was the upper airway narrowing during pregnancy. Douglas explained: "this narrowing is caused by a physical phenomenon connected to increased weight and distention of the abdomen during pregnancy". Fat is deposited in the soft tissue of the neck and around the upper airways, which increases neck size and narrows the airway. In pregnant women blood pressure rises as the airway becomes narrower. This discovery indicates that pregnant snorers have an increased risk of pre-eclampsia.

The good news is that these symptoms are reversible and Douglas found the proportion of pregnant snorers fell back to 18% three months after delivery which was close to the proportion of women snorers in their control group.