Asthma in pregnancy
Mothers with pre-existing health problems may be concerned about how their condition will affect their pregnancy and unborn child. One common condition that might cause problems in pregnancy is asthma. But with the right care and medical guidance, women with asthma can experience a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy is unlikely to cause you to start experiencing asthma symptoms, but if you already suffer asthma attacks, then there is a chance your pregnancy could further complicate the condition.
Will being pregnant adversely affect your asthma
The effects of pregnancy on asthma are unpredictable, and some women won’t notice any change in the condition, while others may even find that their asthma improves. Those who tend not to notice a change generally only have mild asthma symptoms to begin with, while those with severe symptoms are the most likely to experience more noticeable problems. Studies have suggested that asthma symptoms may worsen as you progress into the second trimester, and some suggest that the latter part of the second trimester and into the third trimester (from about week 24 to week 36) will be when symptoms are at their worst.
The good news is that even if you do suffer from intensified symptoms during pregnancy, there are ways of helping control the condition that aren’t harmful to the fetus. Today’s treatments for asthma have developed so that there is now only very little risk to both you and your child. But it is important to see your GP as soon as you can after finding out that you’re pregnant so you can discuss any adjustments to your existing treatment plan.
It may be that you don’t need to make any changes if you are not experiencing any extra difficulties. However, uncontrolled asthma can pose a risk to you and your baby, as it will reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the fetus. This could cause:
- pre-eclampsia (due to the placenta not functioning correctly)
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- premature birth
- low birth weight babies
Helping make sure that you’re asthma doesn’t get worse
The most important thing to remember is to keep taking your regular asthma medication unless instructed to stop by a doctor. This means using the same asthma action plan, including preventative medication and relieving medication if you suffer an attack.
You can expect support from your midwife, but your usual doctor or asthma specialist should continue to manage your treatment plan. If there are any complications, they will be the practitioners to refer to.
Much of the advice here overlaps with general advice surrounding a healthy lifestyle. If you’re an asthma sufferer, hopefully you will already be a non-smoker, but just in case, we will say it anyway: do not smoke – smoking will increase your baby’s chances of being born with asthma and there are a whole raft of other reasons why smoking during pregnancy is not good for you or your baby.
Continue to do all you can to avoid the usual triggers of an attack, such as pet fur, grass cutting, and dust mites etc.
Babies born to parents (one or both) who are asthma sufferers have an increased risk of suffering from the condition. If your baby is born prematurely or if you’ve smoked during you pregnancy, then the chances are also increased, so the best advice is to manage your asthma as well as possible and keep yourself healthy – that way you will be doing the best for your baby as well as for yourself.
Will asthma affect labour?
Very few women have asthma symptoms while giving birth. This is because, during labour, the body produces cortisone and adrenaline – hormones that help keep asthma attacks at bay. Nevertheless, you should let your midwife and hospital staff know you’re an asthma sufferer once your labour starts and don’t let the thought of having an attack during labour panic you. Make sure you have your inhaler to hand and you can use it as normal. It won’t harm your baby.
Get yourself checked out during pregnancy
There are lots of reasons why pregnant women feel breathless, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. If you are worried about your breathing, or any symptoms which feel strange or different from your usual asthma symptoms, speak to your midwife or doctor as soon as you can.