Asthma in Pregnancy

By Spader, Catherine, RN

For many women, pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation. If you and expecting and have asthma, you probably also have many concerns and questions. Be assured that you can have a safe and healthy pregnancy even with asthma. Talk to all your doctors about your concerns. Together, they can develop the safest and most effective asthma treatment plan for your pregnancy.

Will Pregnancy Affect My Asthma Symptoms?

Asthma symptoms can vary throughout your pregnancy. Some women see an improvement in their symptoms while others have worse symptoms. Some women's symptoms stay about the same. It’s important to see your doctor as recommended so he or she can monitor your condition and adjust your treatment as needed.

Is My Asthma Medicine Safe to Take During Pregnancy?

Ideally, you should avoid all medications during pregnancy. However, it’s safer to take certain asthma medications than to have your asthma flare-up during pregnancy. During an asthma attack, your airways narrow. This reduces the amount of oxygen that gets into your bloodstream and to your growing baby. Therefore, taking medications may be better for you and your baby's health than not taking anything.

Some asthma medications are safer to take during pregnancy than others. Contact your doctor as soon as you know you are pregnant, or before becoming pregnant. Your doctor will review all your medications and supplements. He or she can determine which ones are safest and most effective for you and your baby. Your doctor will also monitor your condition regularly and adjust your medications if your asthma improves or gets worse.

In general, health experts prefer inhaled medicines for pregnant women with asthma. However, you may also need pills or syrups if your asthma is severe.

Keep track of your asthma medications. For quick relief of asthma symptoms, you should always have a rescue inhaler, such as albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin). You may also require an inhaled corticosteroid with or without an inhaled long-acting beta agonist (bronchodilator). Of the inhaled corticosteroids, budesonide (Pulmicort) has the most information about its use during pregnancy. This doesn’t mean that you must change corticosteroids if yours is working well. However, if you need to start one during pregnancy, consider asking your doctor about it.

Can I Reduce the Amount of Medicine I Take During Pregnancy?

With your doctor’s guidance, it might be possible to reduce the amount of medicine you need during pregnancy. It is important to closely follow your asthma action plan during pregnancy, which may reduce your asthma symptoms and your need for medicine.

Consider these tips:

  • Avoid your asthma triggers, such as dust, mold, pollen, dust mites, and animal dander.

  • Monitor your breathing, activity level, and asthma symptoms so you can recognize the warning signs of an asthma attack before one occurs and treat it with the smallest amount of medicine possible.

  • Use a peak flow meter to measure the amount of air flowing out of your lungs. Used properly, a peak flow meter can detect an oncoming asthma attack before you feel asthma symptoms. This can help you treat it using the smallest amount of medicine.  

Will My Baby Get Asthma?

Having a parent with asthma increases the risk of asthma in a child. However, you can reduce the risk that your baby or child will develop asthma by:

  • Not smoking

  • Minimizing your child's exposure to secondhand smoke and air pollution

  • Taking care of yourself during pregnancy by getting regular prenatal care, taking prenatal vitamins, eating a healthy diet, and not using drugs or alcohol. This reduces the chances that you will have a baby with a low birth weight. Low birth weight is a risk factor for asthma.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Dec. 15, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2013 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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