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Asthma in Pregnancy

One needs to know about asthma in pregnancy as a would-be-mother.

Facts about and Definition of Asthma during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is indeed an exciting time in a woman’s life. Changes in one’s body may indeed be matched by changes in one’s emotions. One does not know what to expect from day to day. One may feel tired, uncomfortable, or cranky one day and also energetic, healthy, and happy the next. The last thing one needs is an asthma attack.

Asthma happens to be the most common medical condition in the U.S. and other developed countries. If one has asthma, one knows what it does mean to have an exacerbation (attack). One may wheeze, cough, or have difficulty breathing. Remember that the fetus (developing baby) in one’s uterus (womb) depends on the air one breathes for its oxygen. When one has an asthma attack, the fetus may indeed not get enough oxygen. This can also put the fetus in great danger.

If one takes medication for one’s asthma before one became pregnant, especially if one’s asthma was well controlled, one may be tempted to stop taking one’s medication out of fear that it might also harm the fetus. That would indeed be a mistake without the advice of one’s health-care provider. The risk to the fetus from most asthma medications is tiny as compared to the risk from a severe asthma attack. Moreover, women with asthma that is uncontrolled are more likely to have indeed complications during pregnancy. Their babies are indeed more likely to be born preterm (premature), to be small or underweight at birth, and to require rather longer hospitalization after birth. Also, uncontrolled asthma can indeed place one at a health risk since one is more likely to experience preeclampsia or hypertension. Both of these conditions can indeed place one’s baby at risk, as well. In fact, the more severe one’s asthma, the greater the risk to the fetus. In rare cases, the fetus can even die from oxygen deprivation.


How pregnancy can make asthma unpredictable?

About one-third of women with asthma do experience improvement while they are pregnant, about one-third do get worse, and the other third remain the same. The milder one’s asthma before pregnancy, and the better it is controlled during pregnancy, the better one’s chances of having few or no asthma symptoms during pregnancy.

Asthma in Pregnancy 1

If asthma control does deteriorate during pregnancy, the symptoms do tend to be at their worst during weeks 24-36 (months six through eight). Most women do experience the same level of asthmatic symptoms in all their respective pregnancies. Although it is rare to have an asthma attack during delivery, some of the medications that are used during or immediately after delivery can also worsen asthma. Now, as throughout one’s pregnancy, it is important to let health-care professionals do know that one has asthma. In most cases, symptoms do return to “normal” within three months after delivery.


The important aspect to remember is that one’s asthma can be controlled during pregnancy. If one’s asthma is controlled, one has to just take a chance of a healthy, normal pregnancy and delivery as a woman who does is not suffering from asthma.

One’s Asthma Action Plan during Pregnancy

In pregnancy, just as before in case one was pregnant, one needs to have an action plan for one’s asthma. One needs to allow one’s health-care provider know as soon as one is aware that one is pregnant. Together, both need to review one’s current action plan and also make changes if necessary. One may find that one’s symptoms have changed or that one’s sensitivity to certain triggers is different. One needs to be sure to tell him or her all the medications one is taking are not just one’s asthma medications.


What Are the Symptoms and Triggers of Asthma?

Symptoms of asthma during pregnancy are indeed the same as those of asthma at any other time. However, each woman with asthma does respond differently to pregnancy. One may have milder symptoms or more severe symptoms, or one’s symptoms may be pretty much what they are when is not pregnant.

Asthma does trigger during pregnancy similar to other times. Similar to asthma symptoms, during pregnancy sensitivity to triggers may indeed increase, decreased, or stay about the same. These differences are indeed attributed to changes in hormones during pregnancy.


Common triggers of asthma attacks do include the following:

  1. Respiratory infections such as cold, flu, bronchitis, and sinusitis: Both bacterial and viral infections can trigger an asthma attack.
  2. Cigarette smoke (firsthand or secondhand).
  3. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or regurgitation of stomach contents up one’s esophagus or “food pipe”.
  4. Smoke from cooking or wood fires.
  5. Emotional upset.
  6. Food allergies.
  7. Allergic rhinitis (hay fever or seasonal allergies).
  8. Changes in the weather, especially cold, dry air.
  9. Exercise.
  10. Strong smells, sprays, perfumes.
  11. Allergic reactions to certain chemicals.
  12. Allergic reaction to cosmetics, soaps, shampoos.
  13. Allergic reactions to irritants, such as dust/dust mites, molds, feathers, pet dander, etc.


What should one do in case one is pregnant and has a severe asthma attack?

If one has asthma and one is pregnant, one needs to be extra vigilant about one’s symptoms. Keep in mind that one’s symptoms may be worse than usual. One may have an attack that is more severe than one is used to. One must not go by how one’s asthma has been in the past; one must go by one’s symptoms now. If one is having chest tightness or difficulty catching one’s breath, then one needs to go to the nearest hospital emergency department. There one can be given oxygen and “rescue” medications that are safe for oneself and one’s baby. Do not plan to travel to remote areas with difficult access to health-care facilities.

How Is Asthma during Pregnancy Treated?

  1. The best way to treat asthma is indeed to avoid having an attack in the first place. Avoid exposure to one’s asthma triggers. This might indeed improve one’s symptoms and reduce the amount of medication one has to take.
  2. If one smokes, quit. Smoking can harm one and one’s fetus. Avoid being around others who are smoking; secondhand smoke can indeed trigger an asthma attack. Secondhand smoke also can cause asthma and other health problems in one’s children.
  3. If one has symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux (for example, heartburn), one can avoid eating large meals or lying down after eating.
  4. Stay away from people who do have a cold, the flu, or other infection.
  5. Avoid things one is allergic to.
  6. Remove contaminants as well as irritants from one’s home.
  7. Avoid one’s known personal triggers (cat dander, exercise, whatever sets you off).


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