Pregnancy and Breathing

Most women have difficulty breathing during the second and third trimesters as their baby grows.  Due to physiological changes during pregnancy, breathing for moms is not as easy as it was before pregnancy.  Weight gain during pregnancy (average 25-30 pounds) and the position of the baby can make breathing a struggle especially when sleeping.  The baby’s position can make breathing difficult by putting pressure on the diaphragm.  Weight gain during pregnancy can put extra pressure on the airway causing previously healthy moms to snore and develop sleep disordered breathing (SDB).  Sleep disordered breathing includes obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).  Obstructive sleep apnea is stopping breathing for over 10 seconds or more.  Upper airway resistance syndrome is any increase in resistance to breathing causing extra effort to breath.  Often these developments go away after giving birth and when the extra weight is worked off.  But what happens during pregnancy to mom and baby when oxygen is lower than optimal?

Sleep disordered breathing and obstructive sleep apnea for mom is linked to preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes mellitus.  For the baby the risks include intrauterine growth restriction, preterm delivery, low birth weight, neonatal intensive care unit admission and Apgar score of less than seven at one minute.


Dr. Robert A. Gallegos is a Fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry, he is on the faculty of Spear Education, a member the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and the American Dental Association.  Dr. Gallegos practices dentistry in Middleburg, VA.

Dr. Gallegos