Asthma is a fairly common health problem during pregnancy. This includes those who have never had asthma before. During an asthma attack, it can make it harder to breathe, and the baby may get less oxygen. But when asthma is well controlled, there are few risks to the pregnancy.
Most asthma treatments are safe to use when you're pregnant. Talk to your doctor about the safest treatment for you.
What are the risks of uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy?
If your asthma is not controlled, risks to your health may include:
- High blood pressure during the pregnancy.
- Preeclampsia. This causes high blood pressure. It can affect the placenta, kidneys, liver, and brain.
Risks to the fetus may include:
- Abnormally slow growth of the fetus.
- Birth before the 37th week of pregnancy (preterm birth).
- Low birth weight.
- Death that happens right before or after birth.
The better you and your doctor can manage your asthma, the less risk there is.
How is asthma managed during pregnancy?
You'll need an asthma action plan to help you manage asthma during your pregnancy. Use this plan to help control inflammation and prevent and control asthma attacks.
If you're pregnant and have asthma, here are some things to know:
- If you see more than one doctor for pregnancy and asthma care, be sure they talk with each other about your treatment.
- Your lung function will be monitored carefully throughout your pregnancy.
- After 28 weeks, your doctor may ask you to keep track of how often your baby moves (fetal movements) every day. If you notice less fetal activity during or after an asthma attack, contact your doctor or call for emergency help right away to get instructions on what to do.
- You may have ultrasounds after 32 weeks to monitor the baby's growth. Ultrasound exams can also help your doctor check on the baby after you have an asthma attack.
- Try to avoid and control asthma triggers (such as tobacco smoke or dust mites) as much as you can.
- It's important that you get the vaccines to help prevent the flu (influenza) and COVID-19.
How can you manage asthma during pregnancy by treating allergies?
It's common to have allergies, such as allergic rhinitis, along with asthma. Treating allergies is an important part of managing asthma during your pregnancy.
- Try to avoid things that trigger your allergy symptoms (such as tobacco smoke or dust mites).
- Ask your doctor about medicines to help control allergies. Corticosteroid medicines that are sprayed in the nose are safe to use during pregnancy. The antihistamines cetirizine and loratadine are sometimes recommended.
- If you're already taking allergy shots, you may keep getting them. But starting allergy shots when you're pregnant isn't recommended.
- Talk to your doctor before using decongestants you take by mouth (oral decongestants). There may be better treatment options.
Are asthma medicines safe to use during pregnancy?
If you're pregnant and have asthma, it's safer to be treated with asthma medicines than to have asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.
Poor control of asthma is a greater risk to the baby than asthma medicines are.
Never stop taking or reduce your medicines without talking to your doctor. You might have to wait until your pregnancy is over to make changes in your medicine.
Always talk to your doctor before using any medicine when you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
Current as of: November 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine