Pregnancy & Asthma - How to Keep You & Baby Healthy

  • This is the third post in our series on how pregnancy and asthma affect each other. We've learned about the effect that asthma and pregnancy have on your body and the effect that the combination can have on your baby, both before and after it is born.


    In this post, you'll learn about actions you can take to keep asthma in control during pregnancy and keep both you and your child healthy.

    Asthma Control Is the Key to Keeping You & Baby Healthy


    Since asthma control is a realistic goal for most people, then it should also be possible for most pregnant women too. Here are some steps you can take to keep your asthma under control while pregnant:

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    Team up with your doctor to manage your asthma. A pregnant woman with asthma should have regular prenatal care from an obstetrician, and you should get started on that as soon as you think you are pregnant. The doctor can use ultrasonic testing, fetal heart monitoring and other measures to evaluate your baby's health.


    But you will also need to stay in touch with your allergist or pulmonologist while you're pregnant, especially if asthma control starts to slip, so that you can quickly tweak your asthma management plan to get control back. Don't depend on your obstetrician for daily asthma management. But do ask about spirometry or at least a peak flow reading to be done monthly, so that treatment can be stepped up or down as needed.

    Take your asthma medication, as well as allergy medication, as prescribed. The best way to keep asthma under control -- whether you're pregnant or not -- is to follow the medication treatment plan your doctor has set up for you. Research does suggest that most inhaled asthma medicines, especially inhaled steroids and albuterol, are safe to take during pregnancy.


    Treatment guidelines for pregnant women with asthma recommend the medication budesonide (which is found in both Pulmicort and Symbicort) as there is the most data regarding its safety. The guidelines also recommend that pregnant women who have nasal allergy symptoms be treated with an inhaled nasal steroid, because it acts only on the nasal membranes. That means very little medication could even get to the baby. If oral antihistamines are preferred, then Claritin or Zyrtec are recommended.


    If you are still worried about the effect medicines can have on your baby, remember that uncontrolled asthma is much riskier for your baby than asthma and allergy medicines are.


    If you happen to be taking allergy shots when you become pregnant, it is safe to continue them as long as your allergist monitors the dose carefully to avoid any allergic reactions. It's not a good idea for pregnant women to start allergy shots for the first time while pregnant, though.


    Remember to do all you can to avoid contact with your asthma triggers. Reducing your exposure to your known asthma triggers in your environment is the very best way to keep from having asthma attacks or allergy flare-ups. But total avoidance isn't that easy to do. Still, anything you can do along those lines will result in better asthma control, which could mean you'd need less medicine.


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    Tips for Keeping Baby Healthy After Birth


    After the baby has been born, there are still action you can take to give him or her a great start on life and health, such as:

    • If you smoke, quit and always strive to keep your child from being exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke
    • Keep your home as allergen-free as you can
    • Keep your baby's weight within a healthy range
    • Live in a place where air quality is good, with limited car exhaust fumes and smog
    • Learn how to keep your stress under control, since maternal distress can increase asthma risk in children

    And remember, just because you have asthma, it is not guaranteed that your baby will too. Although the risk is high, it is not inevitable. But because it is possible, you should be alert for the early signs that breathing problems are in store. That way, you can have your baby checked out by your pediatrician early on, so that any issues can be dealt with. The good news is, you are an experienced asthmatic yourself, so picking up on the early signs should be easier for you than it would be for the non-asthmatic parent.


    In Summary

    Pregnancy is a time for the expectant mother and family to be joyful. But it can also be a time for worries, if you fear that everything you do might harm your fetus. The good news is that having asthma when you are pregnant, as long as you stay in control, should cause little reason for concern. With good medical care and a solid asthma treatment plan, you and your baby should be able to stay healthy during your pregnancy and afterward too.


Published On: June 02, 2010