Snoring in pregnancy: Causes and tips to prevent

Updated Oct 30, 2023
Snoring in pregnancy: Causes and tips to prevent | Huckleberry

Do you snore while sleeping? If you answered “no”, does your bed partner answer a bit differently? Trust us, it happens! 

Snoring is quite common. You may snore and not realize it unless somebody tells you about it. Besides being a little embarrassing, snoring can occasionally wake you up out of a dream and sometimes may indicate a serious condition called sleep-disordered breathing. Let’s dive into snoring during pregnancy and common questions pregnant people have.


IN THIS ARTICLE:

Is snoring common in pregnancy?

Causes of snoring during pregnancy

Risk factors: Is snoring in pregnancy dangerous? 

Does snoring get worse in pregnancy?

9 tips to reduce snoring in pregnancy

Snoring during pregnancy FAQ


It’s possible that before pregnancy you didn’t have a problem with snoring, or if you did snore it was mild and not causing problems. But you may have noticed that snoring has become a more common occurrence since your pregnancy began, and it may be due to the changes your body is going through.

Several studies have shown that snoring intensity and frequency get worse during pregnancy, and up to 1 in 3 people in the third-trimester experience snoring due to upper airway swelling and weight gain. [1, 2]

Friends, gather 'round for the symphony of the ages! Introducing... SNORING! That's right, folks, it's that lovely sound that happens when your nose, throat, and mouth decide to have a party (i.e. become enlarged) and block your airway. While you may experience snoring during a time in your life, it tends to happen more frequently as you get older and occurs more often in people who are heavier. 

Snoring happens more frequently in pregnancy because of the natural hormonal and body changes needed to support your developing baby. These changes include:

During pregnancy, your body is about to go through a hormonal rollercoaster ride like never before. Among these hormones are estrogen and progesterone, both of which are there to make sure your pregnancy goes off without a hitch. These hormones may cause nasal congestion, swelling of blood vessels and tissues in your upper airway, and narrowing in your mouth and throat – all of which can lead to snoring. [3]

Obesity is a risk factor for many things including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. While you may not have a problem with obesity, some studies have shown that gaining only a small amount of weight can lead to snoring. One study noted that a weight gain of only 10% can mean a 6-fold increase in your chance of developing a problem with snoring or sleep-disordered breathing. [4]

If you’ve ever slept next to somebody who snores, you may have noticed that their snoring is worse when they lie in certain positions – usually while on their back. Sleeping on your back can also cause other problems in your second and third trimesters, so the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends sleeping on your side with your legs bent and supported by a pregnancy pillow [5]. That way, you can snooze in peace and avoid any extra back pain.

You may have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and not know it. OSA is a form of sleep-disordered breathing that is characterized by snoring and increased breathing efforts that may cause you to stop breathing for short periods of time. OSA tends to occur more often in those who are older, are heavier, take sedatives, smoke tobacco, and drink alcohol. 

OSA is very much underdiagnosed - one study suggested that 90% of women with OSA don’t know that they have it. [6] Unfortunately, it's hard to catch this elusive creature during pregnancy (most cases have been diagnosed before pregnancy), but if you suspect you may have it, please consult with your obstetrician. OSA is a serious problem that is diagnosed with special testing during a sleep study.

Some snores are just a harmless pregnancy side effect, others may indicate something more serious. It all depends on a few things, like whether the snoring started before or after the pregnancy. It also depends on whether you also have obstructive sleep apnea, are older, or have other pre-existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure and obesity.

Many studies have demonstrated that snoring in pregnancy is strongly associated with high blood pressure diseases such as gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. [7, 8, 9] Frequent snoring – with or without obstructive sleep apnea – may cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels, leading to higher stress hormones, inflammation, and reduction in antioxidants. All of these factors can raise blood pressure.

Snoring by itself is not a sign of diabetes in pregnant people. However, some studies have shown that snoring may contribute to developing gestational diabetes later in pregnancy. [10, 11, 12] Similar to how snoring may lead to high blood pressure, reduced blood oxygen levels and frequent awakenings can lower antioxidants and cause higher stress hormone levels and inflammatory reactions, which may lead to insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

Several studies have looked at this association, but these were more focused on obstructive sleep apnea. In these studies, the link between snoring and premature birth was found to be caused by co-existing high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes rather than by snoring alone. [11, 13]

If you didn’t snore prior to becoming pregnant, there’s a good chance that you are snoring now and that your snoring will increase in frequency as your pregnancy progresses. 

Snoring in early pregnancy is likely carried over from before you became pregnant and may be an indication of obstructive sleep apnea. The changes in your body caused by pregnancy don’t cause as much of an issue with your airway in the first trimester as they do later in pregnancy.

Most often, pregnancy-related snoring begins to develop in the second trimester and is most severe in the third trimester. [14] If you develop new-onset snoring in late pregnancy, you are more likely to be at risk for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia compared to if you were snoring before you became pregnant. [15] Researchers have also noted that if you experience pregnancy-related snoring and develop hypertension, you are more likely to have underlying obstructive sleep apnea. [16]

After you deliver your baby, many of the changes that happened to you during pregnancy begin to resolve and may take up to eight weeks for full resolution. The body changes that made snoring worse during pregnancy, such as airway swelling and nasal congestion, should lead to improvement in your snoring. 

If you're still snoring like a freight train postpartum, discuss your symptoms with your primary care doctor – especially if you had problems with your blood pressure during pregnancy. They may suggest getting a sleep study to see if you have obstructive sleep apnea.

Consider these helpful tips and natural remedies for snoring in pregnancy:

Limit caffeine intake to no more than 200 mg per day (about one 12-ounce cup of coffee), and avoid consuming any caffeine after lunch.

Don’t drink alcohol if you are pregnant. If you are postpartum, try to avoid alcohol in the evening because it can interfere with restful sleep.

Don’t smoke tobacco products.

Exercise regularly – be sure to speak with your obstetric provider to discuss which activities to avoid during pregnancy.

Minimize distractions in the bedroom before going to bed, such as television, blue lights, noises, cell phones, and laptops.

Keep your sleeping space quiet, cool, and dark.

In some people, an oral appliance called a mandibular advancement device may be helpful. Consider discussing your snoring and sleeping symptoms with your dentist to see if you are a good candidate.

Try using nasal dilator strips, especially if you have increased congestion because of the pregnancy.

There are certain sleeping positions that can ease discomfort and promote better sleep. Avoid sleeping on your back and do your best to sleep on your side with your legs bent – especially as you get into your second and third trimesters.

Propping yourself up or learning how to sleep with a pregnancy pillow may do the trick. If you find that you still roll over on your back, consider an anti-snore pillow or automatic bed that can help you change positions.

Snoring during pregnancy FAQ

Q: Can you develop snoring while pregnant?

A:

People who have never snored may be shocked when they find out they are snoring after becoming pregnant. New-onset snoring is common due to the changes your body experiences in pregnancy, and up to 1 in 3 people will snore in their third trimester.

Q: Is changing sleep position help with snoring in pregnancy?

A:

Snoring is worse when sleeping on your back and tends to resolve after you move to your side. When you are pregnant, you should do your best to avoid sleeping on your back – not only for snoring but also because it helps to keep you from getting dizzy and may improve blood flow to the uterus.

Q: Does snoring in pregnancy go away?

A:

If you were snoring before you were pregnant, your symptoms will likely continue postpartum. If you continue to snore after pregnancy, especially if your pregnancy was complicated by high blood pressure, we recommend you talk to your primary care doctor to be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnea.

Q: Is it common to snore very loud during pregnancy?

A:

While snoring in pregnancy is relatively common, very loud snoring is less common. One study reported that of those who snore during pregnancy, 7% snore loudly [17]. Loud and frequent snoring may also be an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea, so be sure to discuss your symptoms with your obstetrician.

Q: What is the best way to stop snoring in pregnancy?

A:

Your body’s normal response to pregnancy can lead to swelling of the nasal passages and upper airway, and sometimes snoring is unavoidable. To reduce your snoring, and reduce your chances of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, we recommend you maintain a healthy body weight, avoid sleeping on your back, eat a nutritious diet, and exercise regularly.

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

17 Sources

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  2. O’Brien, Louise, et al. (2013). Habitual snoring and depressive symptoms during pregnancy. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13, 113. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-13-113

  3. Dunietz, Galit, et. al. (2022). Maternal habitual snoring and blood pressure trajectories in pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 18(1), 31–38. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.9474

  4. O’Brien, Louise, et. al. (2012). Pregnancy-Onset Habitual Snoring, Gestational Hypertension, and Pre-eclampsia: Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 207(6), 487.e1-487.e9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2012.08.034

  5. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2021). Can I sleep on my back when I’m pregnant? https://www.acog.org/en/womens-health/experts-and-stories/ask-acog/can-i-sleep-on-my-back-when-im-pregnant

  6. O’Brien, Louise, et. al. (2014). Hypertension, Snoring, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy: A Cohort Study. BJOG : An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 121(13), 1685–1693. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12885

  7. O’Brien, Louise, et. al. (2014). Hypertension, Snoring, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy: A Cohort Study. BJOG : An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 121(13), 1685–1693. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12885

  8. Dunietz, Galit, et. al. (2022). Maternal habitual snoring and blood pressure trajectories in pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine : JCSM : Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 18(1), 31–38. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.9474

  9. Dunietz, Galit, et. al. (2018). Maternal Weight, Snoring, and Hypertension: Potential Pathways of Associations. American Journal of Hypertension, 31(10), 1133. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpy085

  10. Facco, Francesca, et. al. (2010). Self-reported short sleep duration and frequent snoring in pregnancy: Impact on glucose metabolism. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 203(2), 142.e1-142.e5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2010.03.041

  11. Qiu, Chunfang, et. al. (2010). Glucose intolerance and gestational diabetes risk in relation to sleep duration and snoring during pregnancy: A pilot study. BMC Women’s Health, 10, 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6874-10-17

  12. Bourjeily, G., et. al. (2010). Pregnancy and fetal outcomes of symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing. European Respiratory Journal, 36(4), 849–855. https://www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20525714/

  13. Izci-Balserak, Bilgay & Pien, Grace. (2010). Sleep-disordered breathing and pregnancy: Potential mechanisms and evidence for maternal and fetal morbidity. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 16(6), 574–582. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCP.0b013e32833f0d55

  14. Dunietz, Galit, et. al. (2018). Associations of Snoring Frequency and Intensity in Pregnancy with Time-to-Delivery. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 32(6), 504–511. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12511

  15. O’Brien, Louise, et. al. (2012). Pregnancy-Onset Habitual Snoring, Gestational Hypertension, and Pre-eclampsia: Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 207(6), 487.e1-487.e9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2012.08.034

  16. O’Brien, Louise, et. al. (2014). Hypertension, Snoring, and Obstructive Sleep Apnea During Pregnancy: A Cohort Study. BJOG : An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 121(13), 1685–1693. https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.12885

  17. Dunietz, Galit, et. al. (2018). Associations of Snoring Frequency and Intensity in Pregnancy with Time-to-Delivery. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 32(6), 504–511. https://doi.org/10.1111/ppe.12511