What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition that causes your airways to tighten and narrow — called a bronchospasm — making it hard to breathe. It’s a chronic disease (long-lasting) that needs to be treated or controlled throughout your life. If you have asthma, you may experience symptoms like difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing.

This is a common condition that affects millions of people in the United States. If you have a family history or allergies, you have a higher risk of developing asthma. Even though it doesn’t go away, asthma can be controlled.

What are the risks of having asthma during pregnancy?

Controlling any medical conditions you may have during pregnancy is important to both your health and the health of your baby. Uncontrolled asthma can increase the chance of complications for mother and baby. Low birth weight and premature delivery are just two examples of possible complications that can happen if you don’t control your asthma during pregnancy.

Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy can cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means that there’s also less oxygen available for your baby. Less oxygen could lead to impaired fetal growth and survival. Poor control of asthma is a greater risk to your baby than treating your asthma. With good asthma control, you should be able to expect a normal pregnancy.

The goals of asthma treatment during pregnancy are the same as treatment at any other time in your life. Asthma control means that you:

  • Have minimal (or no) symptoms during the day.
  • Sleep all night without asthma symptoms.
  • Are able to perform normal activities.
  • Rarely need to use your reliever inhaler (also called a rescue inhaler).
  • Have normal or near normal lung function.

It’s safer for you to treat your asthma with asthma medications than to have an asthma episode.

How should I prepare before pregnancy if I have asthma?

Many healthcare providers recommend a preconception appointment before you start trying to get pregnant. This appointment is a chance to talk to your provider about any medical conditions you might have and your general health. Many people use this appointment to make a game plan for how they will want to treat their medical conditions — like asthma — during pregnancy. It’s a chance to prepare with your provider for the upcoming pregnancy. Remember, you shouldn’t stop taking any of your medications during pregnancy without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Should I stop treating my asthma when I’m pregnant?

You should never stop any medication without talking to your healthcare provider first. During pregnancy, it’s important to still treat any medical conditions you might have. Don’t stop taking your asthma medications during pregnancy without direction from your healthcare provider.

Is it safe to use an inhaler to control my asthma during pregnancy?

Using an inhaler to control asthma is one of the most common concerns. Most inhaled medicines are safe for use during pregnancy. Inhaled medicines are generally low doses that you breathe directly into your lungs. Very little, if any, of the medication from your inhaler is absorbed into your bloodstream. It’s important to make an appointment with the healthcare provider who helps you control your asthma before pregnancy to talk about the best ways to control your asthma and make sure you’re on the appropriate medications.

Oral medications (pills and liquids) can be used during pregnancy. Talk to your provider about the use of oral medications throughout your pregnancy to determine what’s best for you. Your provider will determine if this is necessary. In general, the same asthma treatment that’s appropriate when you are pregnant is also safe during labor and when you’re breastfeeding your baby.

What should I do to control my asthma when I am pregnant?

During your pregnancy, you should continue to follow your asthma control plan. You shouldn’t stop treating your asthma and need to talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to your medications.

Some ways to keep your asthma in control during your pregnancy include avoiding your triggers and irritants. Triggers and irritants to avoid include:

Can I take allergy shots when I’m pregnancy?

Allergy shots are not started if a woman is pregnant. If you’re already receiving allergy shots, your healthcare provider may continue them. However, doses usually aren’t increased during pregnancy to help decrease the possibility of reactions. If you have moderate to severe asthma, a flu shot is generally a good idea. The flu shot is recommended in all trimesters of pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare provider about which shots are safe to get during pregnancy and when you should get them.

Can my asthma get worse during pregnancy?

Whether or not your asthma will get worse when you’re pregnant can be difficult to guess. For some women, asthma gets worse. For others, it can stay the same. There are also some women whose asthma actually improves. The simple way to think about it is like this — if you have severe asthma, the chances are that it might become a little worse during pregnancy. However, if you’ve had previous pregnancies and your asthma didn’t get worse, it’s reasonable to expect that your asthma won’t be much worse during your current pregnancy.

Should I avoid pregnancy if I have asthma?

Asthma is almost never a reason to not get pregnant. However, if you have severe asthma, it’s worth talking to your healthcare provider before getting pregnant. Make a plan with your provider about treatment for your asthma during your pregnancy. Remember, it’s important to treat your asthma during your pregnancy. You should never start or stop taking a medicine without consulting your healthcare provider first.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Pregnancy can be an exciting time of life. It’s also a time to take care of yourself and make sure you’re managing all of your medical conditions. If you have asthma, it’s important to control this condition throughout your pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to have a healthy pregnancy with asthma.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/29/2020.

References

  • March of Dimes. Asthma During Pregnancy. (https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/asthma-during-pregnancy.aspx) Accessed 9/29/2020.
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Asthma During Pregnancy. (https://www.aafa.org/asthma-during-pregnancy/) Accessed 9/29/2020.
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Pregnancy and Asthma. (https://acaai.org/asthma/who-has-asthma-and-why/pregnancy-and-asthma) Accessed 9/29/2020.
  • American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Asthma and Pregnancy. (https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/asthma-library/asthma-and-pregnancy) Accessed 9/29/2020.

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