15 December 2011
Many Australian women opt to not take their asthma medicine during pregnancy despite a worsening of their symptoms, a study has found (Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2011; online 6 Dec).
Women presenting for their 36th week antenatal visit at Melbourne's Royal Women's Hospital were handed a questionnaire asking for reports of asthma severity and views on medicine safety.
Of 819 responses included in the final analysis, 104 women (13 per cent) reported having asthma, which was on par with asthma rates in the community.
"Despite worsening of asthma symptoms, many women do not take regular preventive asthma medicines during pregnancy," the authors concluded.
Use of any asthma medicines declined from 92 per cent of asthmatic women before pregnancy to 75 per cent during it.
Participants whose asthma was treated by a medical professional decreased from 79 per cent before pregnancy to 66 per cent during pregnancy.
Use of preventers such as inhaled corticosteroids and symptom controllers such as long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) decreased, while use of relievers - short-acting beta agonists - increased.
Preventers and symptom controllers need to be taken regularly while relievers are taken only as needed, when breathing becomes difficult.
The study also found women were aware of the increased risk of complications as a result of poor asthma control during pregnancy.
However, less than half (48 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed that most asthma medicines were safe during pregnancy while almost a third (32 per cent) felt "natural remedies are safer".
"The majority said they strived to follow the instructions of their doctor, although frequent deviations from recommended management were reported by more than one-third of respondents," the authors said.
Last Reviewed: 15 December 2011