(HealthDay News) – For women with preeclampsia, sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is linked to reduced fetal activity, and treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) increases the number of fetal movements, according to research published in the January issue of SLEEP.

Diane M. Blyton, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues conducted a study to examine the correlation between SDB and fetal activity. In 20 normal third trimester pregnancies, fetal movement recording was validated against ultrasound. In 20 women with preeclampsia and 20 controls, during the third trimester, fetal movement was measured overnight with concurrent polysomnography. In 10 additional patients with preeclampsia, polysomnography and fetal monitoring were conducted during a control night and during a night with nasal CPAP.

The researchers found that, during sleep, particularly rapid eye movement sleep, women with preeclampsia had inspiratory flow limitation and an elevated number of oxygen desaturations. Compared with controls, women with preeclampsia experienced a significant reduction in total fetal movements overnight and a change in fetal movement patterns. In women with preeclampsia, the number of fetal hiccups was also significantly reduced. The number of fetal movements and hiccups increased significantly with CPAP treatment.

“In conclusion, preeclampsia is frequently complicated by SDB and reduced fetal activity during sleep. This decrease in fetal activity can be partially reversed by nasal CPAP therapy during maternal sleep,” the authors write. “The effectiveness of CPAP in restoring fetal activity suggests a pathogenetic role for SDB in the reduced fetal activity associated with preeclampsia.”

One author disclosed financial ties to ResMed, a company developing diagnostic sleep technology.

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