Expert advice

Dr Caroline West: GP

Dr Caroline West combines her role in a busy inner-city general medical practice with presenting, producing and writing for a number of Australian television shows and magazines. ASK ME A QUESTION

Asthma and pregnancy

Monday, March 17, 2008
Most asthma medications can be safely continued in pregnancy.

Question:
I am eight weeks pregnant with my first baby. I have had asthma since I was a child and I take an asthma preventer/reliever which has kept everything under control. Is my asthma likely to get worse with my pregnancy? Is it safe to keep taking my medications or should I stop?

Answer:

I often get asked these questions by mothers-to-be who are naturally concerned about the health of their baby. But when it comes to the health of your baby, one of the most important steps you can take is to keep your asthma under control and that usually means staying on a preventer/reliever medication to prevent an attack.

Most asthma medications can be safely continued in pregnancy. They in fact have much less risk to your baby than the risk posed to both of you if you have an asthma attack. During pregnancy women may notice a shift in their asthma. Although many with mild asthma may not be too troubled by symptoms through pregnancy, those who have suffered with more severe asthma may notice worsening symptoms that may even require emergency care. Some women also might find their asthma reappears in pregnancy even if it has not been a problem since childhood. (Given asthma is related to the immune system and that pregnancy sets off a unique set of immune system adjustments, this is not surprising).

So I would urge you to see your doctor for a specific asthma check-up. They can go through medications with you and also fine tune a written asthma plan so that you know exactly what to do in the event of worsening asthma. Everyone's asthma is different, so it's important that you discuss your particular situation and medications with your GP.

To summarise, here are steps you can take to avoid asthma attacks

  • Avoid smoke and quit if you are a smoker
  • Keep taking your asthma medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • Have regular asthma check-ups through pregnancy
  • Avoid trigger factors where possible
  • Get a written asthma action plan from your GP
  • Check out the asthma foundation website for more information on
  • asthma and pregnancy.

Enjoy your pregnancy and all the best.

Answer published 17/03/08


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