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Asthma During Pregnancy: How to Manage your Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 29, 2022

Asthma During Pregnancy: How to Manage your Symptoms

Asthma during pregnancy may be a challenging situation, especially if you suffer from a severe form of this condition. Its symptoms can be dangerous and should be dealt with at the right time and in the correct manner to prevent danger to yourself and the fetus. 

In this article, we will talk about asthma during pregnancy, why proper management of the condition is required, the different treatment options available, and what precautions can help. 

What does asthma during pregnancy mean? 

Asthma is a condition that leads to inflammation of the airways and is the most common chronic condition in pregnancy. Normally when you breathe, the air goes through your nose, to the airways, and into the lungs. Your lungs have small air passages that make it possible for oxygen distribution to other parts of the body.

When you have asthma, your airways become inflamed, swollen, and the muscles around them tighten. In addition to this, there is excess mucus in your lungs. This makes it difficult for you to breathe.

Consequently, the asthmatic symptoms that follow include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and tightness in your chest. 

If you get an asthma attack during pregnancy, it can come in the way of your fetus getting oxygen. This is because, during a flare-up, the blood oxygen levels also become low.

And since your fetus is getting his or her oxygen through your bloodstream, there can be a problem in this as well. In short, this situation can be fatal for you and the fetus if not treated well. 

Asthma is characterized on the basis of its severity in the patient. Research suggests that asthma severity before pregnancy is related to asthma severity after pregnancy.

There are three possible case scenarios that can happen: Either your asthma worsens, your asthma improves, or it remains as it is with no change. Reports say it worsens in 1/3 of women, improves in about a third, and remains the same in 1/3. In women who experience worsening, symptoms tend to increase between the 29th to 36th weeks of pregnancy and are generally less severe during the last month of pregnancy.

Symptoms of asthma during pregnancy tend to aggravate in women who suffer from severe asthma prior to pregnancy. Therefore, it is essential to take good care of your condition even before you conceive a child. 

Why is proper management of asthma during pregnancy significant?

When a woman is pregnant, she tends to breathe more deeply. Because of this, her respiratory system also has to work harder. Therefore, oxygenation for both the mother and the baby becomes pivotal. 

Poorly or ill-treated asthma during pregnancy can increase the risk of various medical conditions such as:

  1. Premature birth 
  2. C-section delivery 
  3. Restricted fetal growth 
  4. Preeclampsia: A pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of organ damage. 

Since pregnancy comes with its own set of hormonal changes, this also affects the respiratory system.

An increase in estrogen levels leads to nasal congestion and a spike in progesterone results in breathlessness. Even though these changes may seem mundane, it is essential to get yourself checked to know whether these are asthmatic or non-asthmatic symptoms. 

Pregnancy also brings with it frequent episodes of acid reflux. These happen when the stomach acid travels up to the esophagus. This acid reflux can also worsen your asthma.

If you have managed your asthma well before your pregnancy, then the chances of it flaring up are low. And if you have disregarded asthmatic symptoms in the past, then this can become worse during the course of your pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester. 

What are the different treatment options available for asthma during pregnancy?

Your doctor is most likely to stick to the least invasive treatment option. However, it is better to take medication for asthma during pregnancy than have an asthma attack or flare-up. But it is equally important to follow medical advice for asthma during pregnancy.

It is recommended to go for regular prenatal checkups and get your asthma monitored. Even though some asthma medications may have certain risks, the benefits outweigh those risks. Hence, your doctor is the best person to decide the best treatment for asthma during pregnancy.

Usually, doctors prescribe inhalers as they work in a more specific manner. Only a very minute amount of this inhaled medication gets into the bloodstream. It is the safest option considering that the bloodstream is also supplying nutrients and oxygen to the baby.

Guidelines recommend the use of short acting beta-agonists (SABA) as reliever medication and the use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for women with persistent asthma. Two drugs, budesonide and salbutamol, are considered the best for asthma during pregnancy. Oral medications like montelukast are also often prescribed, though inhaled medications generally work better.

The best way of going about asthma during pregnancy is by working out a plan with your doctor. 

Precautions and prevention tips

  • Prepare with your doctor’s help. Even before you conceive, start being mindful about your asthma and never treat it lightly. 
  • Take your medications as prescribed. Do not self-medicate or self-diagnose under any circumstance. Consult your doctor as soon as something doesn’t feel right. 
  • Asthma is easily triggered by a host of issues such as pet dander, dust mites, mold, pollen, environmental pollutants like smoke or chemical fumes. Make sure to avoid them as much as you can. 
  • Prenatal exercise is healthy, though be cautious about the intensity of your workout. If your asthma is exercise-induced, keep your medication in check and ask your doctor about how to continue exercising. 
  • As mentioned above, breathing issues and nasal congestion come with hormonal changes. Though this does not mean you ignore it in the name of pregnancy. Consult your doctor even if you feel minor discomfort. 
  • Allergy flu shots are generally not considered a safe option during pregnancy. Refrain from getting them while you are pregnant. Ask your doctor what is the next best option. 
  • Don’t smoke either. Just like being around smoke can trigger asthma, smoking yourself can be worse for you and the baby.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a digestive disease that causes acid reflux and heartburn. This can make your asthma symptoms worse. Watch out for foods or drinks that trigger this and avoid consuming them. 
  • Identify what your body is trying to tell you. There can be warning signs telling you that your asthma symptoms may be getting worse. Find out from your doctor about medications as well home remedies that can help. 
  • Understand your recommended medication or course of treatment. This will help you manage your asthma during pregnancy better.

Key Takeaway

Asthma during pregnancy is not dangerous if you contain the symptoms well in time. If you suffer from a severe form of asthma, be mindful of the choices you make. Your doctor will be able to help you create a plan that keeps you and your baby in good health.

Learn more about addressing pregnancy issues, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jul 29, 2022

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