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Asthma and Pregnancy

Saima Andrabi   by Saima Andrabi, MS, Clinical Biochemistry    Last updated on April 11, 2020,

Asthma in pregnancy can have serious effects on the health of a pregnant woman as well as the fetus. Uncontrolled asthma lowers the oxygen levels of the mother's blood. Since the mother’s blood provides oxygen to fetus, this can decrease oxygen levels in the fetal blood. As a result, it may lead to impaired fetal growth and survival.

 

How Does Asthma Affect Pregnant Women?

It has been found that asthma affects 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women. If kept under control, asthma in pregnancy won’t cause any problems. However if not controlled, it may cause a very serious health problem called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia is a condition that can occur immediately after pregnancy or after the 20th week of pregnancy. At this stage, the pregnant women suffer from symptoms like high blood pressure and improper functioning of some organs like kidneys and liver.

As a result, the pregnant women shows signs like proteinuria, vision problems, and severe headache. Moreover, uncontrolled asthma in pregnant women may deprive the baby from enough oxygen resulting in many health problems like:

  • Premature birth
  • Poor growth
  • Low birth weight
  • In severe cases, the baby's life might be in danger

Pre mature babies born to asthmatic mothers may have many health problems such as breathing problems, intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy.

Causes of Asthma Symptoms in Pregnancy

There are a large number of things that can trigger asthma in pregnant women. Among these things some of the most common ones include:

  • Allergens that cause pregnancy rhinitis in pregnant women
  • An irritant that may cause pulmonary issues in pregnancy like polluted air, cigarette smoke, strong smells etc
  • Infections like common cold, viral pneumonia, flu
  • Vigorous exercise during pregnancy can also trigger asthma flares in expecting mothers

Asthma Symptoms Change During Pregnancy

Asthma symptoms often fluctuate during pregnancy. Sometimes, they get worse while at other times they get better.

The reason behind this is still unknown. It is therefore advised to get flu shots so as to avoid the serious symptoms due to asthma in pregnancy.

How Does Asthma Affect the Fetus in Pregnancy?


Uncontrolled asthma lowers the oxygen levels of the mother's blood. Since the mother’s blood provides oxygen to fetus, this can decrease oxygen levels in the fetal blood. As a result it leads to an impaired fetal growth and survival.

The fetus requires a continuous supply of oxygen for normal growth and development. There is evidence that adequate control of asthma during pregnancy decreases the chances of fetal or newborn death and improves the growth of fetus inside the uterus.

So far, there are no indications that a mother’s asthma can lead to spontaneous abortion or congenital malformation of the fetus.

Potential Complications of Asthma in Pregnancy

Decreased oxygen levels due to asthma in pregnancy can have serious effects on the women as well as the fetus. Some of them may include:

  • Preterm labor
  • Extreme morning sickness
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia

Fetal complications include

  • Low birth weight
  • Neonatal hypoxia
  • Perinatal mortality

 

More: What is Asthma Attack?

More: Home Remedies for Asthma

 

How can we Manage Asthma During Pregnancy

There are different methods which can help us to manage asthmatic symptoms during pregnancy, like:

  • Use of a preventer inhaler (steroids) during a cough or cold
  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid exposure to different allergens that may trigger asthma
  • Use of antihistamines against hay fever
  • Avoiding things that may trigger hay fever
  • Maintaining a healthy life style
  • Eating a healthy diet