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Asthma and Pregnancy

Congratulations! Your pregnancy is an exciting event, and your visit to this web page shows you care about staying healthy. You are breathing for two now, and you need to keep your asthma under control. During pregnancy, asthma symptoms will worsen for about one-third of all women. Symptoms may be most severe between weeks 29 and 36 (about the seventh to the ninth month) of pregnancy. By taking the steps listed below and seeing your health care provider regularly, you can control your asthma and protect your baby.

Asthma symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath can keep your baby from getting enough oxygen to grow well. A good rule of thumb to remember is, if you are feeling short of breath, your baby will be feeling it much more. If your asthma isn't under control, your baby could be less healthy and smaller when born, or could even be born too early. But these things don't need to happen because of asthma! Asthma can be controlled so that it doesn’t hurt your baby or you.

Here are the steps you can take to control your asthma and protect your baby:

1. Work with your doctor and other health care providers.

  • Go over your Asthma Action Plan to make sure it is right for you as your baby grows.
  • Keep your appointments.
  • Write down all the questions you have before each visit. It helps you remember to ask them all.
  • Tell your doctor about any wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath that you have.
  • Tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your asthma or breathing patterns
  • Tell your doctor any concerns you have about your medicines or the other parts of your Asthma Action Plan.
  • Make sure you know what your doctor or asthma educator wants you to do before you leave the office.

2. Take your medicines.

  • Follow the directions exactly in your Asthma Action Plan about when to take your asthma medicines and how much of each medicine to take.
  • Don't stop taking your asthma medicines unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Talk to your doctor before you take ANY new medicines, herbal treatments or over-the-counter drugs (those that you choose yourself at the store, such as headache, cough, or cold medicine).
  • Remember: Using asthma medicine during pregnancy is much safer than letting your asthma get out of control. Such asthma medicines as inhaled beta-agonists (quick relief medicines like Maxair or Proventil), cromolyn (medicines that prevent triggers from causing reactions in your lungs, like Intal), and inhaled steroids (long-term controller medicines like Flovent) are safe for pregnant women when you take them as directed by your doctor.

3. Watch your asthma and treat symptoms fast.

Pregnancy is a time of change. Your asthma can get worse, better, or stay the same. If this is your first pregnancy, there is no way to predict what will happen with your asthma. If you have been pregnant before, your asthma is most likely to change--or not change--the same way it did with your last pregnancy. It is very important for you to watch your asthma closely.

  • Use a peak flow meter each day, if told to by your doctor, so you can see changes in your asthma and act early.
  • Know how to tell if your asthma is getting worse. Make a list with your doctor or asthma educator of the ways you can tell if your asthma is getting worse.
  • Make an Asthma Action Plan with your doctor for dealing with any sign or symptom that your asthma is getting worse. Make sure you know how to use it, and get a new one if there are changes in your asthma treatment.

4. Stay away from your asthma triggers.

Your asthma triggers are those things that make your asthma worse. House dust mites or damp places, animals, tobacco smoke, and very cold air are some examples of asthma triggers. You can stay away from some triggers. For other triggers, you can take action to keep them from starting your asthma. See our complete list of triggers and learn about how to avoid or reduce contact with them.

5. Do not smoke or stay around people who smoke.

  • Cigarette smoke makes it more likely that you will have asthma episodes.
  • Smoking during your pregnancy makes it more likely that your baby will be born too early and too small. Your baby is more likely to be sick more often, too.
  • If babies breathe in other people's smoke, the babies' lungs will not grow and work as well as they should. The baby is likely to have more colds and earaches.
  • When babies live with people who smoke, they have a greater chance of developing asthma.
  • If you smoke, now is the time to stop! Your health care provider will help you. Ask about it now, and find more on secondhand smoke and quitting.

Answers To Some Common Questions

With which doctor should I talk about my asthma?

If you have a doctor that has been treating your asthma all along and another doctor for your pregnancy, talk to both doctors about your asthma problems. The two doctors will probably want to talk to each other, to make sure that they are both caring for your asthma the right way. If they don't talk to each other, be very clear about your symptoms, which medicines you take, and when you take them with both doctors. If you are confused about your treatment, tell them.

Are asthma medicines safe for pregnant women?

Yes, asthma medicines are safe when you take them as directed by your doctor. It is very important for your baby's health that you keep your asthma under good control!

Can I exercise?

Yes! You can exercise. But be sure to warm up at the beginning and cool down at the end of each workout. Exercise is important and you should be able to be physically active without having asthma symptoms. Talk to your doctor about this.

Can I take allergy shots?

Yes. Allergy shots can be continued if you were getting them before you were pregnant. Allergy shots should not be started for the first time while you are pregnant.

Should I get flu shots?

You can get flu shots. These are made from dead viruses that will not harm you or your baby. Flu shots are recommended for all people who have asthma. Ask your doctor.

What happens if I get an asthma episode (or "attack") during labor or delivery?

Asthma episodes usually do not occur during labor and delivery. If asthma symptoms do start, you will get prompt treatment and you and your baby will be watched carefully. Your asthma will be controlled so you are more likely to have a normal labor and delivery.

Will my breast milk be safe for my baby?

Yes. Very little asthma medicine will get to your baby through your breast milk. The small amount in breast milk will not harm your baby.

Will my baby have asthma?

Perhaps. A child is more likely to have asthma when one or both parents have asthma or allergies.