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PREGNANT WOMEN ARE BREATHING FOR TWO. When asthma is controlled, women with asthma have no more complications during pregnancy and giving birth than women who don’t have asthma. However, uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy can lead to serious maternal and fetal complications. If you have asthma and you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, see your doctor.
When you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to have your asthma under good control. Breathing difficulties in the mother can limit the oxygen supply to the fetus. Take the Asthma Control Check to ensure your asthma is under control.
In general, one third of pregnant women with asthma notice that their asthma symptoms improve during pregnancy; one third of women have asthma symptoms that stay the same, and one third of women have asthma symptoms that get worse.
If a mother has uncontrolled asthma, there is a higher risk for:
Acute asthma episodes endanger the fetus by reducing the oxygen it receives. It is therefore important to prevent asthma episodes during pregnancy and labour and delivery. Some ways to prevent asthma episodes:
Most asthma medications are safe during pregnancy. Generally, the risks of uncontrolled asthma are far greater than the risks to the mother or fetus from most of the medications used to control asthma. If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your doctor. Your doctor may change your medications, depending on what you are taking.
Asthma care should be integrated with obstetric care. The same health care provider if possible should be used for both. A team approach should be used if more than one doctor is involved.
There are many over-the counter, prescription and herbal medications that should not be taken during pregnancy. Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any over-the-counter, prescription or herbal medicine if you are pregnant.
The mother’s regularly scheduled asthma medications should be continued during labour and delivery. For the women whose asthma improved during pregnancy, and their medications appropriately reduced, an increased need for medication may occur immediately following delivery.
If your asthma has not been under good control, your doctor may give you specific instructions to go to the hospital earlier in the labour.
Your doctor may want you to do a lung function test to see how your breathing is doing. By assessing and monitoring your lung function, your doctor can make any needed medication changes. The doctor can monitor your asthma by using:
The goal is to try and maintain normal, or near normal lung function.
The mother and fetus are monitored during labour and delivery to ensure the good health of both. This is especially necessary for women with asthma.
Fetus: As in most labours, the fetus is monitored electronically on admission to hospital. If the mother’s asthma is under control and in low-risk patients, continuous monitoring may not be necessary. During the course of labour, continuous fetal monitoring may be considered.
Mother: You will have a peak flow rate taken on admission to labour and delivery unit, and every 12 hours following. If asthma symptoms develop, peak flow rates should be measured after treatments.