Asthma is defined as a chronic respiratory disease that affects some 10 million American adults. Asthma is characterized by periods of inflammation or swelling of the airways, increased sensitivity of the airways to a variety of irritants, and obstruction of airflow.
Many factors can cause symptoms of asthma to flare up, including allergies, irritants, infections (such as bronchial infections), exercise, weather, gastric reflux, and hormonal changes. This condition can be very manageable even during pregnancy and delivery with good medical care, monitoring, and medication. However, asthma can affect pregnant women in a number of different ways.
Some women experience an increase in symptoms, such as a greater number of attacks or an increase in the severity of the attacks. This is more common if the preexisting asthma was severe or if asthma was worsened by a previous pregnancy. Most women notice no change in their symptoms, and a few may notice an improvement in their condition. Asthma that is not under control during pregnancy can threaten your health and your baby’s. The goal of treatment should be to keep you and your baby healthy and breathing normally.
If you have asthma, you should have your condition under Control before becoming pregnant. This means understanding how to deal with it and being aware of the causes for your asthma episodes. As with any pre-pregnancy medical condition, you should visit your doctor before trying to become pregnant. During this visit, make sure you have your condition under control, that all medications you are taking are safe during pregnancy, and that you know how your condition will be dealt with during the pregnancy.
This is an opportunity for you and your doctor to develop an action plan. This will ensure a safer pregnancy and will cause less anxiety about your condition during pregnancy.
No matter what the severity of your condition is, treatment options and lifestyle changes should be discussed with both your attending doctor and your OB/GYN before you become pregnant.
Managing Asthma During Pregnancy
It is important to work with your doctor and your OB/GYN during your pregnancy to safely manage your asthma. Your breathing ensures an optimal oxygen supply for your baby. Working closely with your doctor will enable him to take the safest approach to treating your condition and to use the least amount of medication possible. Most of the drugs used to treat asthma are safe for use during pregnancy. As with any medication use during pregnancy, the benefits need to be weighed against the risks.
Medications that may be used include preventers such as steroid inhalers, relievers or bronchodilators; long-acting relievers; and steroid tablets or injections. The type, frequency, and amount used will depend on your individual case and how frequent and severe your symptoms are. Uncontrolled asthma can be detrimental to a baby as well as the mother, and proper treatment often requires the use of medication. Sometimes it is simply a case of adjusting the dosage of the medication you are already taking to help control your asthma with minimal side effects to the pregnancy.
In addition to medication, other steps can be taken to control asthma, such as eliminating as much as possible typical allergens and irritants from your environment. Most people living with asthma are aware of their individual triggers. These may include pets, cigarette smoke, household dust, and environmental allergens such as pollen. Other triggers that may precipitate an attack include stress. It is essential to schedule and keep routine visits so that your doctor can accurately assess the respiratory function of both you and your baby. It is important to take your medication as directed.