A study in the journal Pediatric and Developmental Pathology questioned whether sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in pregnant women was associated with histopathological evidence of placental hypoxia. Placentas of women with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and habitual snoring and those of nonsnorer controls were examined.

Physiological changes during pregnancy can predispose pregnant women to experience SDB. A higher prevalence of snoring has been reported among pregnant women compared to nonpregnant controls. This can have a negative effect on both maternal and fetal health.

Previous work by this research team has linked SDB to placenta-mediated complications, such as gestational diabetes, gestational hypertensive disorders, and altered placental secretory function. As the bridge between mother and baby, the placenta provides oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and removes waste products. The placenta is vital to the developing baby’s well-being.

Findings of this study show that fetal normoblastemia is significantly more prevalent in SDB placentas: only 6.4% in nonsnorer controls compared with 34.6% of snorers and 56.5% of those with OSA. Examination of the placentas also found expression of the tissue hypoxia marker carbonic anhydrase IX in 81.5% of snorers and 91.3% of women with OSA compared with 57.5% of controls.

The current research now links SDB during pregnancy to fetoplacental hypoxia. “According to the Barker hypothesis, the signals we receive from our mothers while we are in utero have an important impact on our future health,” says Füsun Gündo?an, an author of the study, in a release. “The immediate and lifelong health consequences of chronic hypoxic placental injury in association with SDB remain to be determined.”

The study is called “Evidence of Placental Hypoxia in Maternal Sleep Disordered Breathing.”