Serum Progesterone Levels in Pregnant Women with Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Case Control Study

J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 Mar;26(3):259-265. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2016.5917. Epub 2017 Jan 19.


Background: Pregnancy is a risk factor for sleep disordered breathing, including obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Progesterone, one of the key hormones in pregnancy, a known respiratory drive stimulant, increases ventilation and may protect against OSA. We aimed to examine the relationship between circulating progesterone and OSA, after accounting for body weight and gestational age.

Methods: A case control study was conducted of pregnant women with OSA and those at low risk for the disorder. Cases were identified by ICD-9 code and review of medical record. Controls were identified if they scored zero (never) for snoring, apnea, and gasping on the multivariable apnea prediction index questionnaire immediately following delivery. Subjects with available stored first and/or second trimester residual serum samples were then included in this study and serum analyzed for progesterone. Raw progesterone levels were adjusted for the effects of gestational age and maternal weight.

Results: Twenty-seven cases and 64 controls with available serum were identified. Women with OSA had greater maternal weight and higher rates of related comorbidities, compared to controls. Progesterone levels correlated positively with gestational age and negatively with greater weight. Progesterone levels, adjusted for gestational age and maternal weight and expressed as multiples of median (MoM), were significantly lower in OSA cases compared to controls in both the first trimester (MoM = 0.71, confidence interval [95% CI] 0.60-0.83) relative to the MoM in controls of 1.00. In the second trimester levels were also lower in OSA cases (MoM = 0.84, 95% CI 0.73-0.96) compared to the MoM of 1.00 in controls.

Conclusions: Progesterone levels, after accounting for weight and gestational age, were lower in women with OSA than controls. Progesterone may play a protective role against OSA.

Keywords: obesity; obstructive sleep apnea; pregnancy; progesterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Linear Models
  • Polysomnography
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / blood*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First / blood
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second / blood
  • Progesterone / blood*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Progesterone