Sleep in multiple pregnancy: breathing patterns, oxygenation, and periodic leg movements

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1996 May;174(5):1622-5. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(96)70618-x.


Objectives: Our goal was to study whether multiple pregnancy at the third trimester predisposes to breathing disturbances and arterial oxyhemoglobin desaturation during sleep.

Study design: Nocturnal breathing, oxygenation, and movement activity were studied in 10 mothers: 8 with twins, 1 with triplets, and 1 with quadruplets.

Results: No obstructive and few central sleep apnea episodes were observed. Four subjects had episodes of increased respiratory resistance, but only one, the mother with quadruplets, was significantly affected. Arterial oxyhemoglobin saturation was always maintained above 90%. Periodic leg movements were present in all mothers, with a frequency range of 3.7 to 49.7 movements per hour.

Conclusions: In spite of the large uterus in multiple pregnancy, nocturnal breathing and oxygenation are well maintained. Increased motor activity and frequent awakenings suggest poor sleep quality, which may be further compromised by intensive periodic leg movements.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Leg / physiology*
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Oxygen / blood*
  • Periodicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Pregnancy, Multiple / physiology*
  • Respiration*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / etiology
  • Sleep*


  • Oxygen