Asthma is one of the most common long-term conditions seen in pregnancy, affecting up to 8% of pregnant women. About 1 in 3 women will see an improvement in their control during pregnancy while another third will remain the same. However, one third of asthmatic women find their condition deteriorates when they are pregnant.
The good news is that well-controlled asthma poses little or no increased risk to either mother or baby. Unfortunately, studies suggest that pregnant women decrease their asthma medications, particularly in early pregnancy, which can result in the a fore-mentioned deterioration. Research has shown that poorly controlled asthmatic women are at an increased risk of pregnancy complications including high blood pressure, low baby weight and preterm labour and delivery.
The drugs which are commonly used in asthma do not pose a threat to pregnant women and any small risk from the medication used to treat asthma is far out-weighed by the risk of harm to the baby from under-treated asthma.
Reliever inhalers such as the salbutamol/“blue” inhaler can be safely used during pregnancy; if you regularly use a different form of reliever, check with your GP or pharmacist to see if it is suitable and if not, you can be easily switched.
Inhaled steroid treatment (preventer inhaler) has been shown to reduce the risk of an acute attack of asthma in pregnancy and should be used as normal when pregnant. There has been no significant association seen with the use of inhaled steroids and any harm to the baby.
Steroid tablets, if they are prescribed for you, can be used as normal during pregnancy for severe asthma. Steroid tablets should never be avoided because of pregnancy – the benefits of treatment with oral steroids outweigh the risks.
The most important message to remember for pregnant women with asthma is to take your prescribed medicine regularly and in the correct dosage in order to protect you and your baby from complications arising from poorly controlled asthma.
If you are planning a pregnancy, why not discuss your asthma with your pharmacist or GP who can ensure you are using your inhalers correctly for maximum benefit.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who can offer a range of advice to expectant and new mothers. This article is for general information purposes only. For professional healthcare advice, ask your pharmacist first.
Caitriona O’Riordan is a community pharmacist and owner of O’Riordan’s Pharmacy, Enniskeane, Co Cork. She has written articles for the IPU Review, the pharmacy journal of the Irish Pharmacy Union. She has a special interest in infant feeding and is a mother of three