The Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine will have it’s annual meeting in San Francisco today, and one of the topics is the increased likelihood of cardiac dysfunction in women who have obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea causes pauses in breathing while sleeping that can last up to 30 seconds. It has been known for some time that sleep apnea can lead to cardiovascular disease, so the findings of the recent study may not be too surprising.

In total, 1,265 women between the ages of 15-45 with obstructive sleep apnea were involved in the study. Researchers looked at the echocardiogram reports for these women, and found a high percent incidence of abnormal echocardiograms among the group, which is significantly higher than what would be found in women without sleep apnea.

“We found a 31 percent incidence of abnormal echocardiograms among symptomatic women with obstructive sleep apnea. Further investigation is needed to understand the relationship between obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease and their impact on pregnant women,” said Laura K.P. Vricella, MD, fellow, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center.

Obesity was a common factor among those with the abnormal echocardiograms, and doctors caution that pregnancy may causes further problems for those with sleep apnea.

“As obesity rates increase among reproductive age women, the frequency of obstructive sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease in pregnancy is anticipated to rise. The increased hemodynamic demands of pregnancy can cause women with underlying cardiac disease to decompensate,” she added.


Ramie A. Tritt, MD, President of Atlanta ENT