Asthma and Pregnancy
Women with asthma tend to worry about how pregnancy will affect their breathing and if asthma medicines will harm the baby. Asthma is common among pregnant women and if not controlled can lead to complications. But by working with your medical providers, most women can breathe easily, have a normal pregnancy, and deliver a healthy baby. Your symptoms may even improve! As soon as you find out you are pregnant, make sure the healthcare provider who will deliver your baby knows that you have asthma, and share the news with your asthma doctor, too. Below are some tips for navigating pregnancy with asthma.
Controlling Asthma During Pregnancy
Asthma symptoms can improve, stay the same or get worse during pregnancy. In fact, up to 45 percent of pregnant women with asthma have an asthma attack during their pregnancy. To effectively manage your asthma during pregnancy, your healthcare team will work with you to:
- Control daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms,
- Maintain lung function and normal activity level, and
- Prevent asthma attacks.
These steps are important to ensure that your baby gets plenty of oxygen. Asthma flare-ups during pregnancy can cause decreased oxygen in blood, which means less oxygen reaches the baby. This put the baby at higher risk for premature birth, low birth weight and poor growth. In addition to these, women with asthma are also slightly more likely than women without asthma to have high blood pressure, often called pre-eclampsia, and have a cesarean delivery. Babies who are born too small and too soon are more likely to have newborn health problems. They can have trouble breathing and lasting disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy.
These three steps can help you have an easy pregnancy and healthy baby:
Monitor Your Asthma
Your healthcare team needs to monitor your lungs while you are pregnant and adjust your asthma medicines, if needed. Tell your provider if your symptoms improve or get worse. For example, many women will experience shortness of breath during pregnancy, but your healthcare team can help you determine if it’s shortness of breath associated with worsening asthma or normal shortness of breath that many women experience during pregnancy.
Avoid Asthma Triggers
By limiting your contact with allergens and other asthma triggers, you may need to take less medicine to control your symptoms. The key is to control your asthma symptoms by avoiding your asthma triggers and taking your asthma medication as instructed by your healthcare team.
Take Asthma Medication
There are many safe asthma medications to take while pregnant, so talk to your asthma doctor to discuss your options. If you are taking asthma medication before your pregnancy, don't stop without talking to your doctor first. During the delivery of your baby, it will be important to have asthma medication available. By discussing this in advance with your healthcare team, this can be added to your birthing plan.
Controlling asthma during pregnancy requires expecting mothers to carefully monitor their symptoms, avoid asthma triggers and take asthma medicines as directed by their doctor. Suddenly stopping asthma medicines could be harmful to you and your baby. It's important to continue to follow-up with your asthma care provider throughout your pregnancy and get your annual flu shot, which is safe for pregnant women.
Labor and Delivery
Talk with your healthcare providers about your labor and delivery plan. With a diagnosis of asthma, your healthcare team will choose medicines that are safe for you and your baby. For example, in the event of an emergency cesarean delivery, your healthcare team may select general anesthesia that promotes dilation of the airways.
Belly breathing exercises for relaxation will come in handy during labor and delivery. The Lung Association has an instructional video to help you practice and be prepared. Belly breathing is a great skill for people with asthma to have on hand during pregnancy or anytime who may experience difficulty breathing.
Asthma Medication and Breastfeeding
There are many health benefits that your baby gets from breast milk. Talk to your doctor about continuing to use your asthma medicines while breastfeeding and list any concerns that you may have. Asthma medications are generally safe for breastfeeding babies.
Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed April 29, 2019.
Page Last Updated: April 29, 2019
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