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Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder which occurs when a person's throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airways during sleep and causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. 

The findings showed that newborns of mothers with sleep apnea were 25 percent more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or special care nursery by 34.9 percent.

These newborns were 2.76 times more likely to have resuscitation at birth and 2.25 times more likely to have a longer hospital stay.

The risk for congenital anomalies also was 26 percent higher in babies of women with sleep apnea.

"Our results have shown that babies born to mothers with a diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to require resuscitative efforts at birth, be born preterm, and to require a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit compared to babies who were not exposed to maternal sleep apnea," said lead author Ghada Bourjeily, associate professor at the Brown University in Rhode Island, US.

For the study, published recently in the journal Sleep, the team analysed more than 1.4 million linked maternal and newborn records.

Mothers with sleep apnea had a higher likelihood of having obesity, pre-gestational hypertension and diabetes.

"These findings add to our understanding of the extent of morbidities of maternal sleep apnea for the mother as well as the baby," associate professor said.

"The results further highlight the importance of identifying this condition in pregnancy and testing the impact of therapy on these complications," Bourjeily added.