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Some Pregnant Women Need To Get Tested For Obstructive Sleep Apnea

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National Jewish Health sleep specialist Ann Cartwright (credit: CBS)

National Jewish Health sleep specialist Ann Cartwright (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – Pregnancy and exhaustion seem to go together, but being overly fatigued can signal a bigger problem for a mother and her baby.

Pregnant women who are overweight before their pregnancy, have high blood pressure, diabetes, are especially sleepy and snore, should probably be tested for obstructive sleep apnea.

Kelly Goelz is two weeks from the due date of her second child. She’s excited. The first time around she was also exhausted.

“Probably starting the second trimester I was already snoring, not getting any sleep, waking up multiple times during the night,” Goelz said.

But during this pregnancy, Goelz has been sleeping like a baby. Early on she complained of snoring to her colleagues in sleep research at National Jewish Health. They tested her for obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where people periodically stop breathing during sleep.

Goelz’s results were shocking.

“I was stopping breathing multiple times throughout the night. My oxygen levels were going way below normal and my heart rate was really high,” she said.

That could lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes; and it could harm the baby.

“If the mom’s not breathing and not getting oxygen, that means the baby’s not getting enough oxygen either, which can certainly cause problems,” said Ann Cartwright, a sleep specialist with National Jewish Health.

That includes low birth weight and premature birth.

Goelz uses “continuous positive airway pressure,” or CPAP treatment nightly. But she’s rare.

“Symptoms of sleep apnea are so similar to the symptoms of normal pregnancy. I think the majority of women don’t get tested or treated,” Cartwright said.

Goelz highly recommends the treatment. It’s helped her and her husband sleep soundly. She’s a more rested mom for and feels better prepared for her upcoming delivery.

In most cases women who didn’t have sleep apnea before pregnancy will return to normal sleep after the birth.

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