Updated 26 July 2016

Asthma and pregnancy

Many women worry that taking asthma drugs will have a negative effect on their developing child and some even stop taking their medication regularly.


Having a child is a time of great joy and this shouldn’t be diminished if you’re asthmatic. However, many women worry that taking asthma drugs will have a negative effect on their developing child and some even stop taking their medication regularly. This is not advisable.

Numerous studies have shown that the majority of asthma medications are quite safe. Don’t stop taking your asthma medication without consulting your doctor. Poorly controlled asthma is a much greater risk to the unborn child than asthma medication and may result in low birth weight infants and high rates of pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure after the sixth month of pregnancy).

When you fall pregnant, however, the severity of your asthma may alter. In some women it improves, while in others it appears to worsen. If you experience asthmatic symptoms around the time of your period, you’re more likely to experience a deterioration in your asthma during pregnancy. If this happens, discuss these changes with your doctor and for a period of time, you may have to alter your medication. Although asthma shouldn’t interfere with the birth of your baby or your choice of pain relief, there are a number of bodily changes that take place after delivery and this is an “at risk” period for asthma attacks.

However, as with other risk factors in asthma, this should not be a problem if your asthma is well controlled before you give birth. It is important, however, to continue taking your asthma medication around the time of delivery and not to skip any doses.

The good news: it is safe to breastfeed while using asthma medication.

(National Asthma Education Programme, September 2001)

Read more:
Children and asthma

National Asthma Education Programme (NAEP)
Allergy Society of South Africa (ALLSA)


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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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