IS SNORING LINKED TO SMALL BABIES?
Can a woman’s lack of oxygen during sleep affect the health of her unborn baby? Action Medical Research scientists in Nottingham are currently working on finding some answers to a very common problem.
People afflicted with sleep apnoea stop breathing for a short period during sleep, a condition that is usually associated with middle aged and overweight men. However, recent research shows that this condition can also occur in pregnant women, and there is evidence that a lack of oxygen can cause growth restriction in babies.
At the moment, there are still many questions surrounding the causes of small, full-term babies, but what is known is that many growth-restricted babies are at a higher risk of cerebral palsy or even death.
There are currently no treatments for growth restriction – sleep apnoea is, however, easily treated once it has been diagnosed.
If the Action Medical Research team finds a definite link between oxygen deprivation and growth restriction, they may be able to take measures to prevent families the heartache and worry of a growth-restricted baby.
Professor Jim Thornton is part of the study team. He said:
“My interest in this goes back many years when I had a patient who had the classic signs of sleep apnoea – loud snoring and low oxygen levels during sleep – and she went on to lose her baby, which her scans had shown to be very small.
“We do know that oxygen levels can have an impact on intrauterine growth, and although there are of course many reasons for low birth weight, sleep apnoea is very easy to treat. If there is a link; it’s something we can quickly put right and so help prevent growth restriction in an unborn baby.
“The most exciting thing about this research is that if we can establish a link, we could have a real, dramatic impact on the lives of many mothers and their unborn babies.”
The £6,000 Action Medical Research grant has bought pulse oximeters, small devices that clip to the finger and attach to the wrist to record oxygen levels as a woman sleeps. The team hopes that the research will show a definite link between oxygen levels and low birth weight, with the ultimate aim of preventing growth restriction in the unborn baby.
Andrew Proctor of Action Medical Research said,
“This groundbreaking study is interesting because it points towards a simple solution for one of the most complex and distressing problems that can face pregnant women.
“This is one of our Touching Tiny Lives projects, which are urgently looking to find answers to premature birth and pregnancy complications.
“Ten percent of babies need some kind of special care when they are born – we think this is too many and that babies are dying unnecessarily because too little money is invested in projects like this.
“More research is needed to ensure that all babies grow up healthy.
“Our Touching Tiny Lives Campaign is looking to raise £3m to fund vital projects whilst highlighting the urgent need for more research.”
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