What is asthma?
Asthma which everyone knows as a disease that causes shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing is a chronic inflammation of the airways. In Greek, it means "panting". Asthma can have various triggers in the environment, and genetic factors often play a huge role in who gets the disease. Asthma can turn up in lots of different degrees of severity. Some people who have been diagnosed with asthma get by fine without regular medication, while others have terrible breathing difficulties if they don't get medication. Ventolin, the asthma pump that widens the airways and helps patients to breathe right when they need it, is probably the most well-known asthma drug. There are many others that are used as preventative measures as well.
Asthma during pregnancy does that matter?
Most asthma patients get by really well, and hardly notice they have the disease once they have found their "medication groove". Asthma attacks can be a problem for some people, but many asthma sufferers rarely have those. In fact, it can be easy to forget you even have asthma once it is well under control. It may be something you don't even remember to think about when you start trying to conceive! Unfortunately, asthma can have a negative impact on a pregnancy, and pregnancy can also have a negative impact on asthma. Proper medical care to keep asthma under control is very important during pregnancy. Asthma that isn't well managed can contribute to:
- Preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening pregnancy complication involving dangerously high blood pressure.
- More severe morning sickness.
- premature labor and birth, with all the resulting complications for the baby.
- Low birth weight babies, and possible intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) during pregnancy.
The latter two may be caused by a lack of oxygen supply to the baby, because the mom isn't receiving enough oxygen herself. These slightly scary possibilities can be avoided by receiving the proper medical care, from your pulmonologist as well as your obstetrician/gynecologist.
Because your pregnancy and your asthma can interact, it can be very beneficial for your health and your baby's if your different healthcare providers discuss the best course of treatment. Women who have their asthma under control during their pregnancy, and who don't notice an increase in shortness of breath will probably not notice any negative effects at all. Non-asthmatic women often do suffer from shortness of breath in the later stages of pregnancy due to an increasingly small space for all the internal organs in the body (including the lungs). It is possible that expectant moms with asthma will feel this even more strongly. Some women who have asthma actually feel better during pregnancy, so don't be too pessimistic!
Is asthma medication safe during pregnancy?
Discussing your regime of medication with your doctor as soon as you find out you are pregnant (and even better, while you are trying to get pregnant) is the safest option for everyone who faces this question. Every individual's health and circumstances are different, and it would be pointless and dangerous to offer any advice about medications on this blog. Research suggests, however, that asthma inhalers are relatively safe during pregnancy. Asthma that is not properly controlled is far more dangerous preeclampsia, intrauterine growth problems and premature birth are all serious issues. Taking asthma inhalers decreases the chances you will suffer from these complications. Oral asthma medications may pose more serious health risks to your baby, talking to your doctor about the risks vs benefits as soon as possible is important. Never stop taking medication without consulting your doctor.
Asthma and trying to conceive
If you are asthmatic and thinking about trying for a baby soon, you will benefit from a consultation with your doctor. You will have a less stressful time trying to conceive if you know that your medications have been approved for use during pregnancy, and have had a general discussion about asthma and pregnancy with your healthcare provider. Do you have any personal experience with asthma and pregnancy that you would like to share? Please leave a comment!