This is the second in our series on Pregnancy & Asthma. Getting pregnant when you have any chronic illness, including asthma, can be worrisome. As a new mom, you want to be sure your baby will be born healthy. And there’s no reason why that can’t happen, even if you do have asthmaHow Asthma Can Affect Your Baby Before Birth
As long as you can keep your asthma under control, your baby should not have any negative effects. So staying in control is good for both you and baby.
However, if your asthma control is up and down or slips altogether, your blood won’t have the right levels of oxygen in it, and that means your baby may not get enough oxygen either. Lack of oxygen can affect fetal growth and development, because fetuses need a consistent supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to grow and develop.
This is not to say the occasional asthma attack is going to have a negative effect on your baby, or that if control slips every now and then, bad things will happen. It’s more worrisome when your asthma is out of control more than it is in control.
The second concern is whether taking your asthma (and maybe allergy) medicines could be harmful to your unborn baby. After all, doctors usually recommend that you stay away from many over the counter medicines during pregnancy because of their potentially harmful effects on the fetus.
However, as far as we know, asthma and allergy medicines taken by a pregnant woman are not harmful to her unborn child. And when doctors prescribe medication for a patient, they are always weighing the benefits of the medicine against the risks of taking it.
Sure, putting a foreign chemical into your body when you’re pregnant might carry some risk to your baby. But weigh that against the risks (as outlined above) to your child when your asthma spirals out of control because you are no longer being treated for it. Those risks are definitely higher.
Asthma’s Effect on Your Newborn Infant
Hopefully, you work hard to keep your asthma under control all throughout your pregnancy and your baby is born healthy and happy. But even afterwards, there can be some concerns on how a mother having asthma could affect her baby.
If you are taking asthma medication, you may wonder if it’s safe to breastfeed your baby, since medication can be passed through breast milk. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both you and your baby, both physically and emotionally. Although your asthma medicines could conceivably be passed to your baby through breast milk, there has been no proof that either asthma or allergy medicines are harmful to a nursing infant.
So, in most cases, the same medicines that can be taken safely during pregnancy can also be used when nursing. It’s a good idea to check with your allergist if you have any concerns, though.
One thing that can help minimize the amount of medicine passed to your baby in breast milk is to schedule when you take your medications for at least 15 minutes after you nurse your baby and three to four hours before the next feeding.
You might also be worried about whether you will pass asthma on to your baby. This is actually a valid concern, as one of the main risk factors in children for developing asthma is having a parent who has asthma. This is especially true with first-born babies. But there are things you can do to help protect your child, which we’ll cover in the next post in this series.
Although having asthma when you’re pregnant can present some risk to your unborn baby, if you keep your asthma under control and keep yourself healthy, your child should turn out to be healthy too.
Next up in the series is my post on actions you can take to keep you and baby as healthy as you can be.
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.