Asthma, pregnancy and breast feeding
If you have asthma, being pregnant or breast feeding should present no problems, providing you continue to control your asthma effectively. Here are the answers to some simple questions about managing your asthma during these times.
Can I take my asthma medicines while I am pregnant?
According to the National Asthma Council, it is safe to continue taking your asthma medicines while you are pregnant. However, if your asthma is being treated with oral corticosteroids, check with your doctor about the safety of this treatment while pregnant. Most asthma medicines have been shown to be extremely safe for both you and your developing baby, and will ensure that your asthma symptoms are not left untreated for the duration of your pregnancy. (Untreated symptoms may be harmful for the baby.) Your asthma management plan should be reviewed regularly throughout pregnancy. Uncontrolled asthma is far more of a danger to your pregnancy than any of your prescribed asthma medicines.
Do not stop taking either your preventer or reliever asthma medicines without consulting your doctor first.
Some pregnant women with asthma actually experience an improvement in their asthma symptoms, possibly due to increased levels of cortisone in the body during pregnancy.
Always check with your doctor before starting or stopping taking any types of drugs or medicines during pregnancy.
Will having asthma make my pregnancy worse?
Many women experience breathlessness during pregnancy which is due to hormonal changes, not asthma. Many women also experience breathlessness during the last trimester of their pregnancy due to the enlarging uterus restricting movement of their diaphragm. This is normal in many pregnant women, even those who do not have asthma.
Some women with severe asthma may develop high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
There is an increased risk of having a low-birthweight baby or a pre-term delivery in women with uncontrolled asthma.
How should I monitor my asthma during pregnancy?
It is extremely important to monitor your asthma closely throughout your pregnancy. Follow your regular asthma management plan closely, and consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your health or that of your developing baby.
Peak flow monitoring throughout your pregnancy will help you to manage changes in your lung function, and allow you to adapt your medicines and management plans accordingly. Late in pregnancy your peak flow may decrease due to the enlarged uterus taking up space for the lungs to expand into.
Effective management of your asthma during pregnancy is essential: unstable asthma has been associated with premature births and low-birthweight babies.
How will my asthma affect my labour?
Taking asthma medicines during pregnancy does not delay or lengthen delivery time. Talk to your doctor before your labour about how your asthma may affect the delivery, and ask them to advise other medical staff of your special needs.
Pain relieving drugs are available for use by women with asthma during labour and your options for pain management can be discussed with your doctor.
Is it safe to breast feed while taking my asthma medicines?
Yes. While asthma medicines do enter breast milk, the extremely small concentrations do not harm the baby in any way. See your doctor or healthcare professional if you have any concerns regarding breast feeding your baby.
Will my child have asthma too?
The cause of asthma remains unknown, although there is an increased risk of a child developing asthma if he or she has a parent or brother or sister who has asthma.
Protecting your child from cigarette smoke, during pregnancy and afterwards, is recommended to reduce the risk of your child developing asthma. Doctors also recommend breast feeding as a means of reducing the likelihood of your child developing asthma and allergy.
Last Reviewed: 21/10/2009
1. National Asthma Council Australia [website]. Asthma management handbook 2006. Pregnancy and asthma (updated 2007, May 31). http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/cms/content/view/40/48/ (accessed 2009, Oct 30)
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