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Asthma during Pregnancy

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Does Asthma get Better or Worse in Pregnancy?

Learn about asthma in pregnancy and how it can complicate your pregnancy.

People who suffer from asthma find it makes it hard for them to breathe. It may also lead to coughing, a tight feeling in the chest or noisy breathing, called wheezing. When a woman gets pregnant, she may find her asthma symptoms improve, get worse, or simply stay the same.

You treat asthma with medicine. This may involve pills, liquids or inhalers. Although the different types of medicines work differently, they may help quickly stop the symptoms, control the symptoms over a period of time and even prevent the possibility of future symptoms.

You will need to come up with an asthma action plan, with your doctor’s help. These are the instructions which let you know which medicines you need, and when you’ll need to take them. It also lets you know when you need extra help or to call 911.

Safety of Asthma Medications during Pregnancy

Most asthma medicines are safe during a woman’s pregnancy. If your medicines aren’t safe, your doctor will tell you. If your doctor prescribes asthma medicine to you, though, you need to take it to make sure your asthma is under control. If not, you and your baby could have some major health problems.

Medical Care and Testing

While you’re pregnant, you may need to be working with more than one doctor. While one doctor will take care of all your pregnancy health needs, you may need a second doctor specifically dealing with your asthma.

You will also probably need some tests, like the breathing test, to check out your lungs. Your doctor may also want you to use what’s called a “peak flow meter” while you’re at home. You breathe into this device to show how your lungs are doing.

Your baby will likely need some tests, too. This may include an ultrasound-imaging test, which takes pictures of the inside of a woman’s body, or blood tests.

Preventing Asthma during Pregnancy

There are some things you can do to try to prevent asthma symptoms while you’re pregnant. They include:

  • Stopping smoking, and avoiding people who do smoke.

  • Getting a flu shot - This can help prevent the flu. If you do get the flu, your asthma symptoms could worsen.

  • Avoiding asthma triggers - These are the things, which make your symptoms worse. Commonly, triggers include things like cigarette smoke, plants, pollen, dogs, cats and dust.

What Medications are Best to Treat my Asthma?

The medications to treat asthma during pregnancy are a lot like your treatment when not pregnant..

The three preferred medications to treat asthma during pregnancy are Albuterol, Budesonide, and Salmeterol. They can be used alone or in combinations with each other.

Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin) is the preferred inhaled, short-acting bronchodilator during pregnancy. It rapidly relieves difficulty breathing by relaxing your airways. Short-acting bronchodilators appear to be safe during pregnancy.

Budesonide (Pulmicort) is the preferred inhaled corticosteroid during pregnancy. It is believed to be the safest, inhaled corticosteroid to use during pregnancy.

Salmeterol is the preferred longer-acting bronchodilator during pregnancy. Salmeterol is important for controlling asthma, but it is not used for rapid relief from asthma symptoms.

A healthy baby

If you’re able to control your asthma well during your pregnancy, it likely won’t hurt your baby.

One thing you can do is to breastfeed. This is because breastfed babies have a lower risk of wheezing episodes before age two. If you want to breastfeed, though, let your doctor know. They’ll need to ensure your asthma medicines are safe for your baby.

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