The healthy habits you’re embracing during pregnancy can have a significant positive impact on your baby’s overall development. As an orthodontist, I want to focus on a specific area that is often overlooked. If you’ve been reading my blogs based on the book, Sleep-Wrecked Kids by Sharon Moore, you know how passionate I am about healthy sleep. You can have an effect on your child’s sleep starting right now – in utero!
On top of the healthy diet and exercise recommended during pregnancy, getting quality sleep is paramount. You are sleeping for two! A good night’s sleep (and a nap if you need it) directly affects your baby’s oral development.
At 20 weeks, your baby is actively sucking and swallowing, getting the muscles ready for nursing. This helps widen the upper jaw and stimulates growth of the lower jaw. It helps the tongue learn to rest nicely on the upper palate. Proper oral facial development leads to open airways and better sleep throughout life.
When you’re sleeping well, your baby is getting well-oxygenated blood that is needed to move around in utero and develop their sucking and swallowing skills. If you’re snoring at night, waking up still feeling tired, you may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. This would be time to get that treated. If your breathing is obstructed at night, it reduces your blood oxygen levels and can lead to high blood pressure. Your baby also gets less oxygen, which slows their movements, including sucking and swallowing. In some cases, a mother’s obstructed breathing can lead to premature birth and a baby who has trouble nursing or bottle feeding.
Why would an orthodontist be focused on this? Because a major cause of obstructive sleep disorders is narrow airways, which are often caused by poor oral facial development. Orthodontics can correct the jaws and get the airways open. In my practice, we’re as passionate about open airways and healthy sleep as we are about properly aligned teeth and magnificent smiles.
If you’re pregnant, and have any signs of obstructive sleep disorders, please reach out to our team. We’re on a mission to improve sleep, as it affects every aspect of a person’s life.