Snoring During Pregnancy

Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, CNM, RN
Reviewed by Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, CNM, RNWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on October 20th, 2021

Are you waking up exhausted and under the cranky glare of your partner? If so — and there’s no easy way to say this — you’re probably snoring!

But don’t worry, because snoring during pregnancy is hardly uncommon. Everything about your body is changing, including how you breathe at night.

Snoring can be either a simple inconvenience to be dealt with until your baby arrives or a warning sign of more serious complications.

Let’s look at when you started snoring, and how to spot the difference between innocent snoring and potentially worrying complications to ensure that you keep yourself and your baby in the best of health.

Is snoring in pregnancy common?

If it feels like you’re not meeting pregnancy-glow expectations with your newfound snoring habit, don’t worry.

Up to 45% of pregnant women snore during an otherwise normal pregnancy, while the majority of women start snoring during their second and third trimesters.1Saaresranta, T., Anttalainen, U., & Polo, O. (2015). Sleep disordered breathing: is it different for females?.

You may have a higher chance of snoring in pregnancy if you are:

  • Overweight
  • Older aged
  • Diabetic 
  • Preeclamptic (up to 75%)
  • A back sleeper
  • Experiencing allergies
  • Suffering from sleep apnea

Why do women start snoring during pregnancy?

Pregnancy changes your body in many ways. Often, these changes are beautiful, while some lead to noisier side effects, such as that not-so-lovely snoring samba rattling from your nose.

Blood volume and excess fluid

Increased levels of blood swirling around your veins, coupled with water retention and swelling around the neck and within the nasal passages, can lead to snoring.

Lying down can further aggravate this process, as this position may cause fluid to migrate upwards towards your respiratory tract.

Hormones 

Your rapidly fluctuating pregnancy hormones do not lend themselves to a good night’s sleep. These changes cause the nasal passages of pregnant women to swell, leading to snoring that ranges from mild to severe.

In extreme cases, it can even contribute to sleep apnea,2Get a Good Night’s Sleep During Pregnancy
hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/get-a-good-nights-sleep-during-pregnancy
a severe condition where airflow during sleep is obstructed so much that breathing temporarily stops.

Weight gain

A woman with a healthy BMI can expect to gain up to 35 lbs throughout her pregnancy journey. This number goes up or down, depending on an individual’s BMI, but even an obese woman can expect to gain at least 11 lbs.3Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy?
mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-weight-gain/art-20044360

While a normal part of pregnancy, this weight gain can cause you to snore due to excess pressure resting against the airway and diaphragm. With that constriction, a snoring symphony is born.

Allergies and sickness

Becoming sick, or suffering from allergies, can also lead to snoring (even if you’re not pregnant!) When suffering from an illness or irritant, the blood vessels in your nasal passages begin to swell. This, of course, occludes the airway, which means it’s likely you will spend your nights snoring instead of getting proper sleep.

The risks of snoring during pregnancy

Snoring is often just ‘one of those things’ that you and your partner laugh (or grimace) about over breakfast. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely. When women snore during pregnancy, it can be indicative of a severe medical condition.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a disorder characterized by high blood pressure that can range from mild to severe. Those suffering from this condition can experience organ damage or even fetal death. It can pose a serious health risk to both expecting mothers and their babies.

When women snore during their pregnancy, especially those having had no previous snoring history, they are considered at higher risk for developing this ailment or other blood pressure disorders.4O’Brien, L. M., Bullough, A. S., Owusu, J. T., Tremblay, K. A., Brincat, C. A., Chames, M. C., … & Chervin, R. D. (2012). Pregnancy-onset habitual snoring, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia: prospective cohort study. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 207(6), 487-e1.

With that said, the presence of snoring in pregnancy does not mean you are suffering from this serious ailment. A pregnant woman also needs to be at least 20 weeks along in her pregnancy, have high blood pressure, and present with at least one of the following:

Unfortunately, the only definitive cure for preeclampsia is through delivering your baby. When possible, your doctor or midwife may recommend inducing labor early for the safety of both you and your child.

If your baby is not developed enough to survive outside the womb, there are medications available that can help lower high blood pressure, with your OB/GYN possibly recommending dietary changes or bed rest.

Obstructive sleep apnea

The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a condition where the throat muscles periodically relax to the point that your airway is blocked, and you stop breathing for short periods while sleeping.

Many women decide to be screened for this disease, sometimes after their partner has repeatedly shaken them awake due to loud snoring. You should also contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Severe fatigue during the day that hinders your ability to function
  • Gasping for air or a choking sensation when awakening from sleep
  • Loud snoring multiple times per week6Strollo Jr, P. J., & Rogers, R. M. (1996). Obstructive sleep apnea. New England Journal of Medicine, 334(2), 99-104

As with many sleep disorders, a high BMI is a considerable risk factor, so be sure to talk to your OB/GYN about healthy weight management.

In an interview with news station KTVB7, Dr. Jeffrey Lin noted that obstructive sleep apnea elevates the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, and increases the odds of requiring a C-section.

Dr. Lin advises women experiencing sleep apnea symptoms to undergo a sleep study. He notes that, with modern technology, “most patients can have their sleep studies done in the comfort of their own home,” so needn’t worry about a complicated procedure in a strange place.7https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpMnpXjbLBA

Early onset snoring

For most women, snoring doesn’t become an issue until they enter their second or third trimester. However, almost 8% of women begin to snore earlier in their pregnancy.8Sarberg, M., Svanborg, E., Wiréhn, A. B., & Josefsson, A. (2014). Snoring during pregnancy and its relation to sleepiness and pregnancy outcome-a prospective study. BMC pregnancy and childbirth, 14(1), 15.

This is often associated with a higher BMI, which can predispose a pregnant woman to future pregnancy complications.

However, the good news is that snoring is not related to weight gain in pregnancy. If you begin to snore during your first trimester, you should talk to your doctor about any possible risk factors.

Safe ways to stop snoring

If you’re one of the many pregnant women who snore but are otherwise healthy, you’re probably desperate for a good trip to dreamland right about now! When you’re a snoring, pregnant woman, sleep doesn’t feel particularly restful, so check out these tips:

  • Sleep on your left side: This position allows for improved circulation throughout your body and keeps some weight off your diaphragm, which can lead to less snoring in pregnancy.
  • Sleep with your head elevated: By keeping your head up, you’re protecting your airway.
  • Saline drops: If nasal congestion is the cause of your snoring, then a little saline spritz up your nostrils may help break up impacted mucus.
  • Nasal strips: A go-to for anyone who wants to stop snoring, these little strips are applied to the outside of your nose and gently widen your nasal passages, helping air make its way around those swollen blood vessels.
  • Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air can calm irritation caused by inhaling dry air, and your snoring could settle right down.
  • Stay hydrated: Proper hydration can thin mucus and curb your appetite.
  • Avoid dairy: That wonderful grilled cheese sandwich could be causing extra mucus formation, something dairy products are notorious for producing.
  • Pregnancy pillows: These handy products can do wonders at evenly distributing your body weight and keeping you in a comfortable position throughout the night.
  • Eat fruit: Pregnant women should always focus on healthy foods, but certain fruits such as pineapples, bananas, and oranges, can increase natural melatonin production.

Sleeping solutions for your partner

Between pregnancy and dealing with the sawmill that has set up shop in your nose, you undoubtedly have a lot on your plate. Still, it’s good to remember that your snoring may be disrupting your partner’s sleep as well as your own. Here are a few simple suggestions to help them sleep better:

Earplugs: Just make sure to pick a product designed for sleeping, as they’ll be the most comfortable to wear while blocking out snoring sounds.

White noise machine: Snoring and white noise frequencies tend to blend together, so the actual sound of snoring may become less intrusive.

Sleeping in another room: This may not seem like the best option, but suppose you just can’t stop snoring and your partner begins to suffer from constant fatigue during the day? In this case, it might become necessary to sleep separately for at least part of the pregnancy, or even, in extreme cases, until your baby is born.

Frequently asked questions

Can I prevent pregnancy snoring?

Because many causes are directly related to your pregnancy (ie. hormones and weight gain), preventing unpleasant snoring noises is largely impossible.

What you can do is remember to keep your weight gain within healthy parameters and, if you start snoring, employ some of the above tactics for yourself and your partner.

Will my pregnancy snoring ever go away?

Rest assured that the majority of women who began snoring during their pregnancy find their sleeping pattern does return to normal shortly after giving birth.

Once pregnancy hormones disappear and you shed your baby weight (providing you return to a healthy BMI), you should find the only noise waking you and your partner up is that of a hungry baby.

Can I take melatonin supplements to help me sleep better? 

While it may be tempting to add a melatonin supplement to your vitamin regime, most experts would advise caution.

While there have been promising studies regarding melatonin as a treatment in severe preeclampsia, not much is known about its long-term effects on the development of a baby.9Dou, Y., Lin, B., Cheng, H., Wang, C., Zhao, M., Zhang, J., & Wu, J. (2019). The reduction of melatonin levels is associated with the development of preeclampsia: a meta-analysis. Hypertension in pregnancy, 38(2), 65-72.

During a 2013 study, doctors regularly gave pregnant rats melatonin. The result was a higher mortality rate and a slower growth rate for the resulting pups.

In short, just because melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone doesn’t mean you should begin taking it daily in pill form without speaking with your doctor.10Singh, H. J., Saleh, H. I., Gupalo, S., & Omar, E. (2013). Effect of melatonin supplementation on pregnancy outcome in Wistar-Kyoto and Sprague-Dawley rats. Sheng Li Xue Bao, 65(2), 149-157.

Are there safe sleep medications I can take to keep myself asleep during pregnancy?

While some medications are not considered harmful to take while pregnant, even natural remedies can prove harmful for your baby during pregnancy.

Diphenhydramine and doxylamine are, typically, safe during pregnancy. Before starting any herbal or over-the-counter medication, give your OB/GYN a call, and discuss their benefits and risks.

Am I eligible for a CPAP machine if my snoring is annoying, but harmless? 

A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine may be used for those diagnosed with sleep apnea. If you’re snoring while pregnant, but otherwise healthy, your doctor will, more likely, suggest a simpler, less expensive treatment.

Wrapping up

Problems with snoring, pregnancy-related or not, can be embarrassing. However, it’s a perfectly normal issue.

You should consult your doctor if you exhibit any of the more extreme symptoms we’ve discussed above. Even if your snoring is perfectly normal, your OB provider can work with you towards achieving a better night’s rest.

Pregnancy eventually runs its course, and, with it, goes the extra estrogen, increased blood volume, baby weight, and other fun stuff that led to all that snoring in the first place!

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Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, CNM, RN
Reviewed by Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, CNM, RNWritten by Neve Spicer Updated on October 20th, 2021

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