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Sleep Apnea Increases Gestational Diabetes Risk

Pregnancy can be a time of great hope and excitement. But it can also be a time of stress in some circumstances, especially if the mother-to-be is experiencing any medical issues that complicate the pregnancy. From pre-existing medical conditions flaring up to pregnancy-induced conditions such as gingivitis and preeclampsia, there are many changes the body may undergo that aren’t exactly routine.

One such change is a condition known as gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs when blood sugar increases during pregnancy. This dangerous form of diabetes can lead to high birth weight in babies, and can increase the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Now, a new study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society has revealed that patients with REM-related obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, are more likely than those without OSA to develop gestational diabetes.

Dr. Kelley Mingus is a dentist in Bend, Oregon, who treats sleep apnea with the use of orthotic sleep devices. He says these findings are not surprising.

“We do see a higher rate of diabetes with obstructive sleep apnea patients,” says Mingus. “It could be because obesity and obstructive sleep apnea are often seen together, or it could simply have something to do with the decreased oxygen saturation that occurs during the night with obstructive sleep apnea patients. Or both.”

Mingus believes that though gestational diabetes is generally temporary – lasting only as long as the pregnancy – it is worth monitoring pregnant women with OSA a bit more closely to be sure their gestational diabetes does not develop into type 2 diabetes – especially with obstructive sleep apnea in the mix.

As for treating the condition, Mingus says pregnancy is definitely not a time to let obstructive sleep apnea go untreated.

“It’s not just about the health of the mother, but of the baby and the pregnancy,” he says.

Mingus recommends women with obstructive sleep apnea come up with an OSA treatment plan with their general practitioner or a sleep specialist, and then discuss the plan with their OBGYN.

“You want a coordinated effort between specialists to make sure you are getting the best care possible during pregnancy,” he says.

As for how to treat obstructive sleep apnea, Mingus says it’s never too late to start if you’re not already being treated.

“There are many options for treating OSA, including CPAP and sleep orthotics,” he says.

Mingus offers orthotics in his Bend, Oregon, clinic and says that, in his experience, they are much more successful than CPAP.

“Orthotics are more comfortable and more likely to be used, so they have a higher success rate than CPAP does,” says Mingus. “The device you use to treat your OSA is important, but the most important thing is that you get treatment for your OSA, no matter what that looks like.”