There are plenty of reasons that moms-to-be huff and puff during their pregnancy. Extra weight, hormonal changes and expanding bellies put pressure on the lungs making it difficult to draw a deep breath from time to time but none of these issues compare to the troublesome and sometimes dangerous effects that asthma can have during pregnancy. Asthma is an incredibly common condition. Asthma is the most common medical condition during pregnancy and is estimated to effect about 7% of expectant moms.
A combination of inflammation and swelling that influences the tubes that carry air to the lungs, asthma is triggered by dust, mold, pollen, chemicals and a variety of other allergens. Symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Excess mucus production
Most people with asthma have breathing problems for a short time and then go weeks or months with no symptoms at all. About 1/3 of pregnant women will see an increase in their asthma symptoms, another 1/3 will improve and a final 1/3 will have no change in symptoms.
But how does asthma affect your pregnancy and your baby? Most women are able to carry their babies without difficulty, but some research has linked asthmatic symptoms with an increased risk of developing preterm labor, pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, and low birth weight babies. Now before we dive in to all that “could happen”, let’s keep in mind that most of these risks are for women who have daily asthma symptoms or long-term reduction of air flow due to their asthma. For the most part, women who have only occasional symptoms and who have been determined to have good airflow by their doctors will be able to carry their babies with little or no problems.
Many of the prescribed medications for asthma may be okay to use during your pregnancy. Of course, it’s always best to discuss any new or existing medications with your OB/GYN just so he or she can approve them or offer an alternative if needed. The goal is to provide relief for your symptoms with medications and treatment approaches that minimize exposure for your baby. Your doctor may adjust or change your asthma medications as needed during your pregnancy and as your symptoms change.
Tips to reduce symptoms
- Do your best to reduce or eliminate allergens as much as possible. Seal pillows, mattresses and dust-collecting items in protective coverings.
- If possible, remove pets from the home or try to have pets that are low dander
- Wash bedding weekly and use a vacuum with a filter to catch airborne triggers
Communication is key
The most important step you can take to control your asthma is to talk with your doctor and make a plan. Know what you will do for a severe attack, and when he or she wants to see you if your symptoms get worse. Ask your doctor how your medications should be adjusted and follow their recommendations to ensure a happy and healthy pregnancy. Dr. Hessel is a trusted and experienced OB/GYN in the Forrest Hills, New York area. She understands the ups and downs of pregnancy and the curve balls life can throw during this special time. She welcomes you to her office for customized care for both your asthma and your pregnancy.