The female body undergoes dramatic physical changes during pregnancy that can affect each woman differently.

Pregnancy has been known to cause distinct changes in some asthmatic women and none at all in others. The changes range from an improvement in asthma symptoms to a worsening of the condition.

Here, we will discuss the most common concerns raised regarding asthma during pregnancy.

Asthma During Pregnancy

A meta-analysis study found that equal numbers of asthmatic women experience either worsened, improved or unchanged asthma symptoms during pregnancy.

The change in symptoms can occur at any time and may be momentary, last for the duration of the pregnancy or continue for some time following the birth.

Severe asthmatics are more likely to develop changes than those living with a mild condition.

Those who experience worsened symptoms often notice them during the second and third trimesters, with a peak at around six months. An improvement in any worsened symptoms is usually seen around four weeks prior to the due date.

Subsequent pregnancies tend to follow a similar pathway to the experience of the first child. Most women report that their symptoms return to their pre-pregnancy state within three months of giving birth. Non-asthmatic women have been known to develop asthma during pregnancy but it is quite rare.

Staying Healthy During Pregnancy

All women should look after their general well being during a pregnancy, as their health can have a direct impact on that of their unborn baby. For asthmatic women it is important that they follow the advice given to them by their healthcare professional.

In order to limit the likelihood of symptoms flaring up they should try to:

  • Stop smoking. All asthmatics should try and give up smoking but this is especially important if you are pregnant because smoking can lead to early labour or cause your baby to have breathing problems, including asthma.
  • Eat a well balanced diet. Consuming a healthy and varied diet is not only beneficial to your own health but it will ensure that your baby receives essential nutrients to help it grow strong.
  • Avoid your triggers. Where possible you should avoid coming into contact with your triggers in order to keep your asthma as well managed as possible.
  • Follow your asthma action plan. Once you find out that you are pregnant you will need to see your doctor. They should review your personalised asthma action plan and update it with any new information relating to your pregnancy.
  • Inform your midwife that you have asthma. This will enable them to take any extra precautions necessary during treatment.

Asthma Symptoms During Labour

Only a small percentage of female asthmatics, thought to be around ten percent, will notice asthma symptoms during labour. This is because the body releases chemicals throughout the process to regulate such symptoms.

Pregnant women should be advised that they can continue to use their regular inhalers during delivery should they need to. They can also be offered the same variety of pain killers as non-asthmatic women, so long as no prior sensitivities have been noted.

Asthma Medications and Pregnancy

Your asthma treatment is likely to stay the same during the whole term of your pregnancy. Although slight adjustments may be required if your asthma symptoms change.

Uncontrolled asthma, often due to omitting medication, can pose more of a risk to your health as well as the health of your unborn baby than the use of asthma medications.

Studies have found that most asthma treatments are safe to be continued throughout pregnancy. You should not make any changes to your medication without first speaking to your doctor.

Newborn and Asthma

Poorly managed asthma can result in adverse pregnancy outcomes. It can result in less oxygen entering the mother’s bloodstream which can be detrimental to the growth of the foetus.

Because asthma can run in families, there is a chance that your baby will grow up to have the condition. It is unlikely for an asthma diagnosis to be given at birth. Instead the doctor will look at the baby’s family history, the health status of their mother throughout pregnancy and their presenting symptoms.

You should remember that many children go on to outgrow their diagnosis and asthmatics generally tend to lead full and healthy lives.

Breastfeeding

Mothers who have asthma can breastfeed their babies even if they are taking inhaled medication for their condition. A small and safe amount of medication may be passed through your breastmilk to your baby. Your treatment should not alter your body’s ability to produce milk.

If you have any concerns regarding asthma and pregnancy or breastfeeding, speak to your doctor. They will be able to offer advice relevant to your particular situation.