Updated 16 October 2013

Asthma control critical during pregnancy

Asthma control during pregnancy is vital because uncontrolled asthma can cause harm to mothers and their babies, according to a new review.


Asthma control during pregnancy is vital because uncontrolled asthma can cause harm to mothers and their babies, according to a new review.

Asthma affects about 10% of pregnant women, making it the most common chronic condition in pregnancy, the researchers said.

Overall, the severity of asthma during pregnancy remains unchanged, worsens or improves in equal proportions, according to the review. But asthma control deteriorated in 60% of women with severe asthma, compared with 10% of those with mild asthma.

All pregnant women with asthma need to be closely monitored, however, regardless of asthma severity, according to the review, which was published recently in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist journal.

Guidelines recommend that the management and treatment of asthma in pregnant women should be generally the same as for non-pregnant women and men, the authors said. They noted that poor asthma control during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of caesarean delivery and low birth weight.

Potential side effects

Some women and health-care providers have concerns about potential harmful side effects that asthma drugs can have on mothers and their babies, but the review concluded that it is still safer for women to use asthma drugs during pregnancy to prevent uncontrolled asthma.

"Asthma is a widespread condition and poor management during pregnancy can lead to adverse maternal and foetal outcomes," review co-author Chris Brightling, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University Hospitals of Leicester in England, said in a journal news release.

"Good asthma management to maintain tight control is vital, and standard therapy may be safely used in pregnancy to achieve this along with close surveillance from midwives, obstetricians and, for women with severe asthma, a respiratory physician," Brightling said.

Education is key for anyone, especially pregnant women, to manage their asthma, journal editor-in-chief Jason Waugh said in the news release. This means understanding the condition and its treatment, avoiding triggers, and adhering to medication guidelines, he said.

"Any women who have concerns about their asthma management during pregnancy should contact their [general practitioner] or midwife for further advice," Brightling said.

More information

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology has more about pregnancy and asthma and allergies.

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Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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