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Pregnancy and Asthma

During pregnancy you are breathing for you and your baby so keeping your asthma under control is important. Some women will notice more asthma problems when they are pregnant, but others will have fewer asthma problems.


Signs of Asthma Problems

Asthma flare-ups can happen anytime during pregnancy. Most flare-ups are caused by infections such as colds or bronchitis or by women stopping their asthma medicine. Do not stop taking asthma medicine when pregnant.  Asthma medicine controls your asthma to keep you breathing normally. Asthma medicines are safe and cause little risk to you or your baby.

Call your provider’s office if your asthma is not controlled.  Signs that your asthma is not controlled are:

  • Your breathing wakes you up at night more than twice a month.
  • Asthma limits your daytime activities more than twice a week.
  • You are using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week.
  • Your are taking asthma medicine but it isn’t helping.

Go to the Emergency Room immediately if you are having severe asthma problems.  Signs of severe asthma problems are:

  • You have trouble saying four or five words at a time.
  • You are too short of breath to do normal activity such as bathing, dressing or cooking.
  • You are coughing so much you cannot catch your breath.
  • Your lips or fingernails are bluish.
  • Your peak flow is below 50% of your best.

Remember: Asthma flare-ups are treated the same during pregnancy as they are when you are not pregnant. The treatment is safer for you and the baby than not being able to breathe.


Before Pregnancy

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a visit with your provider to see if you are healthy and your asthma is under control.  Also get needed vaccines such as flu, pneumococcal (pneumonia), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis).


During Pregnancy

Take your asthma medicines regularly during pregnancy.  Do not cut back on your medicines during pregnancy or this can cause asthma flare-ups.  Talk to your provider if your asthma is not controlled, you have side effects to the medicine or problems affording the medicine.

Review all medicines with your provider including vitamins, herbs and supplements. Ask for the safest brands to use during pregnancy.

Do not smoke and avoid second hand smoke.

Do not drink alcohol.

Get needed vaccines such as flu.

Ask for an asthma action plan so you will know what to do if your asthma flares-up.  Asthma flare-ups should be treated quickly to prevent drops in oxygen levels which can harm the baby.  If your medicines are not helping, call your provider right away for help.  If you are having lots of problems breathing go to the Emergency Room. (Read “Signs of Asthma Problems” above).

Pregnancy can cause shortness of breath that is not asthma. A good way to see if the shortness of breath is caused by pregnancy or asthma is to check your breathing with a “peak flow meter”. Your peak flow numbers will be normal if you are short of breath because of pregnancy but will go down if it is caused by asthma.  If you are unsure call your provider.


During Delivery

Asthma rarely causes a problem during delivery but always tell the medical staff you have asthma so they can make sure you continue your medicines.


After Delivery of the Baby

Your asthma will usually go back to how it was before pregnancy within 3 months.

Take your asthma controller medicines as directed. Talk to your provider if you are having side effects or the medicine is not controlling your asthma.

Schedule a follow-up with your provider to get your asthma checked and have your medicine adjusted if needed.

Do not smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.  Exposure to smoke has been linked to asthma, ear infections, pneumonia and sudden infant death syndrome.


During Breastfeeding

Take your asthma controller medicines as directed. Talk to your provider if you are having side effects or the medicine is not controlling your asthma.

Review all medicines you are taking including vitamins, herbs and supplements with your provider.  Ask for the safest brands to use if you are breast feeding.

Do not take decongestants found in many cold, flu and allergy medicines, such as Sudafed®, Sinutab®, Allegra-D®, Claritin-D®, pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine.

Do not smoke or let other people smoke around your baby.

Do not drink alcohol.


For more information:

Go to the Asthma health topic.