Asthma in Pregnancy
Over 2.5 million Australians suffer from asthma – 1:10 adults and 1:9 children.
Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that is characterised by variable and reoccurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction and bronchospasm.
Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Many women experience breathlessness during pregnancy which is due to hormonal changes, not asthma. Many women also experience breathlessness during the third 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.
Asthma is caused by environmental and genetic factors.
If you are planning a pregnancy, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. It is vital that your asthma is under the best control and you are on the most appropriate medication.
If you are an asthmatic and are pregnant, this should present no problems providing you continue your medication and check in with your doctor if anything changes.
Pregnancy is not likely to bring on asthma if you did not previously have it, but the effect of pregnancy on women who do have asthma is unpredictable. Approximately a third of pregnant women with asthma notice no change, a third notice an improvement and a third of women find their asthma gets worse.
It is important that you do not cease any medication without consultation with your doctor. Good asthma control means that your baby will continue to have good oxygen supply for growth and development. Untreated asthma, poorly controlled asthma or flare ups during pregnancy can affect the wellbeing of both the mother and the fetus.
Women with uncontrolled asthma are more likely to develop complications during their pregnancy. There is an increased risk of premature labour and the development of pre-eclampsia or hypertension.
All drugs commonly used to treat asthma are considered safe and any risk to the fetus is less than the risk of uncontrolled asthma. These medications are considered category B drugs.
It is important to remember that your asthma can be controlled during your pregnancy. If your asthma is well controlled you have just as much chance of having a healthy, normal pregnancy as a woman who does not have asthma.
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists. With over three decades of experience he has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.