Health + Wellness

Will Your Asthma Put Your Baby at Risk?


Pregnant women don’t just eat for two — they also breathe for two. If you have asthma, remember that your baby is counting on you for oxygen. When you’re struggling for air, your baby is feeling your pain very directly. That’s why controlling your condition during your pregnancy is more important than ever. By keeping your asthma in check, you can give your baby an excellent start.

Will your asthma put your baby at risk?

As recently as the 1970s, women with asthma had good reason to worry about getting pregnant. Compared with other women, they were more likely to die during pregnancy, have stillbirths, or miscarry. Even during successful births, the babies often tended to be premature and smaller than normal.

Asthma treatments have come a long way in the last 30 years, and today’s mothers-to-be have little to fear. In the majority of cases, you and your doctor can set up a game plan to keep you breathing easily throughout your pregnancy and beyond. And once your asthma is under control, it poses almost no threat to you or your baby.

To be on the safe side, your obstetrician may want to check your baby with a heart-rate monitor shortly after you go into labor. If you’ve had severe asthma symptoms during your pregnancy, the doctor may decide to monitor the baby regularly throughout your third trimester. He or she may also order ultrasound imaging to see if the baby is growing at a normal rate.

Most women with asthma have smooth, unremarkable deliveries. Be sure to bring your asthma medications to the hospital to have on hand in case you have a bad attack during labor.

Will asthma medications hurt your baby?

It’s a basic rule of pregnancy: The fewer chemicals in the body, the better. But this is no time to put away your inhaler. Although no asthma medication comes with an absolute guarantee of safety — scientists rarely test drugs on pregnant women — several have an excellent track record. Guidelines issued by the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) emphasize that uncontrolled asthma is much more hazardous to your baby than controlling your asthma with appropriate medications.

What medications should you take?

At the very least, you’ll need some sort of bronchodilator medication that can open your airways and stop an attack. The NAEPP recommends keeping albuterol, a short-acting inhaled medication, on hand at all times. This drug has few side effects and can quickly restore your breathing capacity. Letting an attack go untreated can cut off a fetus’s air supply, possibly increasing the risk of death or brain damage.

In addition to bronchodilators, women who have persistent asthma symptoms need daily medications to ease the inflammation in their

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