Asthma During Pregnancy: Common Questions Answered

pregnant woman coughing

Pregnancy brings joy and anticipation, but it also brings new concerns. For women living with asthma, pregnancy can bring additional challenges.

While asthma during pregnancy can be concerning, it does not necessarily pose a significant risk to the mother or fetus. However, expectant mothers with asthma must follow their healthcare provider's recommendations carefully to ensure the best possible outcome for themselves and their babies.

Partnering with your care team to manage your asthma, allergies, and related symptoms is key to ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Here are answers to the most common questions surrounding asthma and pregnancy.

Can asthma lead to pregnancy complications?

According to the National Institutes of Health, between 4-8% of pregnancies are affected by asthma, making the condition one of the most prevalent chronic diseases affecting pregnancy. Although allergies and asthma are highly common medical disorders affecting pregnant women, they can nevertheless cause serious complications.

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder marked by airway inflammation and constriction. It affects millions of people around the world and can significantly influence overall well-being. The presence of asthma during pregnancy can create additional complexities during fetal gestation.

“Pregnancy brings significant changes to your body, including hormonal shifts and alterations in lung function,” says Dr. William A. McCann, Chief Medical Officer of Allergy Partners. “Poorly controlled asthma during pregnancy can pose risks to both mother and baby.”

When pregnant women experience asthma flare-ups, the baby’s oxygen supply is compromised. Oxygen deficiency can cause significant medical complications for the baby, including premature birth and developmental disorders. Additionally, women with asthma are at a higher risk for preeclampsia, a potentially fatal medical issue that occurs in approximately 6% of pregnancies.

The severity of asthma symptoms during pregnancy tends to correspond with asthma’s overall severity, though some people – approximately one-third – experience symptom improvement during pregnancy. However, pregnant women with asthma should nonetheless follow their medical team’s asthma care plan regardless of whether their symptoms remain the same or improve.

How do I prevent an asthma attack during my pregnancy?

Proper management of asthma triggers is especially important during pregnancy. Common asthma triggers include the following:

  • Dust Mites and Household Pests: Dust mites and household pests, such as cockroaches, ants, and rodents, can trigger asthma symptoms. These small organisms can be found in bedding, carpets, furniture, and other parts of the home.
  • Pets: While pets can provide companionship and emotional support, certain animals, particularly cats, dogs, and birds, can also trigger asthma attacks. Proteins common to animal dander, skin flakes, and saliva can cause an allergic reaction in individuals with asthma.
  • Outdoor Pollution: Exposure to outdoor pollutants, such as pollen, vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions, can irritate the airways and trigger asthma attacks. It is important to limit outdoor exposure during peak pollen seasons or when air quality is poor.
  • Mold: Mold spores can be found in both indoor and outdoor environments. When mold grows in damp or humid areas, such as bathrooms, basements, or leaky pipes, it can trigger asthma symptoms. Keeping indoor spaces clean and dry can prevent mold growth.
  • Tobacco Smoke: Smoke from tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, and secondhand smoke, is a known asthma trigger. Even brief exposure to smoke can cause bronchospasms, coughing, and wheezing in individuals with asthma. It is advisable to establish smoke-free environments and refrain from smoking or being around others who are smoking.
  • Respiratory Infections: Respiratory infections like common colds, sinusitis, COVID-19, and influenza can worsen asthma symptoms. Practicing good hand hygiene, vaccinating against respiratory infections, and consulting a healthcare provider for appropriate treatment can dramatically reduce respiratory infection risk.

It is crucial for pregnant women with asthma to work with their healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive asthma management plan. Regular check-ups and follow-ups are important to monitor asthma control and address any changes in symptoms during pregnancy. Proper prenatal care is essential, as it can help identify any potential complications or risks associated with asthma during pregnancy.

In addition to managing asthma, pregnant women should prioritize a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy. A healthy lifestyle includes maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest.

Should I continue to exercise regularly during pregnancy if I have exercise-induced asthma?

Exercise-induced asthma, known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), occurs when heat and water loss during physical activity cause the smooth muscles in the airway to constrict.

While exercise is a common asthma trigger, physical activity is nonetheless an important part of maintaining overall health and improving lung capacity. Exercise during pregnancy offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces back pain
  • Mitigates bloating
  • Reduces constipation
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Enhances mood
  • Helps prevent gestational diabetes
  • Increases energy

There is also evidence to suggest that exercise can help ease and even shorten labor.

Exercise-induced asthma can be managed with the help of allergy and asthma specialists. “Your specialist can assess your asthma severity and control, adjust your medication regimen as needed, and provide personalized asthma action plans to help you navigate your pregnancy with confidence,” says Dr. McCann. “It's crucial for expectant mothers with asthma to receive comprehensive care tailored to their unique needs.”

Can I safely use asthma medications during pregnancy?

It is essential to continue taking your asthma medications during pregnancy, as directed by your healthcare provider. Some asthma medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are considered safe during pregnancy and can help control your symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. However, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medications or changing your current routine.

At Allergy Partners, we recognize the importance of providing comprehensive support to women with allergies and asthma throughout their pregnancy journeys. We have a deep understanding of allergy-related pregnancy challenges and offer the necessary range of services and resources that will help you navigate your pregnancy safely. Find a location today.