sleep disorder and fetal healthSleep has proven health benefits and according to researchers at the University of Sydney could be beneficial for women with preeclampsia. It is estimated that up to 7% of pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia. The condition requires immediate medical attention and often leads to premature delivery and low birth weight. One of the side effects of preeclampsia is difficulty breathing properly during sleep. Researchers theorized that addressing this breathing issue may promote fetal health and reduce risks to both fetus and mother in cases of preeclampsia.

Seventy women were recruited for the study. Twenty women underwent ultrasounds during the second trimester to establish normal fetal movement. Twenty women with preeclampsia underwent concurrent polysonography overnight during the third trimester and another twenty women without preeclampsia were evaluated overnight during the same time. Another 10 women with preeclampsia received one overnight stay without breathing treatment as a control and one overnight stay with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Fetal movements and hiccups decreased in the 10 active participants during the first night without sleep intervention. The effects of preeclampsia on breathing and oxygen saturation were noted particularly during REM sleep. When treated with CPAP, fetal movement and hiccups increased during sleep; leading researchers to believe sleep disordered breathing could be a contributing factor in poor fetal outcomes. Patients with preeclampsia may benefit from CPAP, especially during sleep. Fetal health may also be improved.

Source: Blyton DM, Skilton MR, Edwards N, Hennessy A, Celermajer DS, Sullivan CE. Treatment of sleep disordered breathing reverses low fetal activity levels in preeclampsia. Sleep. 2013 Jan 1;36(1):15-21. doi: 10.5665/sleep.2292.