By Kathleen MacNaughton, R.N
Asthma and pregnancy may not seem like a winning combination to an expectant mother. Don’t worry, though. If you have asthma and are thinking of becoming pregnant or just found out that you are expecting, rest assured. If you continue to manage your asthma well, there is no reason that asthma in pregnancy will keep you from having a normal, healthy baby.
However, asthma during pregnancy can cause serious complications – for both you and your infant – if it is not controlled properly. So, it’s important that you take a proactive approach to your asthma and your pregnancy, so that everyone stays healthy.
How Pregnancy Can Affect Asthma
The effect of pregnancy on asthma is kind of unpredictable. Studies have shown that slightly over a third of women will have their asthma symptoms worsen during pregnancy. Another third will stay the same, and slightly under a third of women will actually experience improvement in their asthma in pregnancy. There is no way to know which will happen to you, so the important thing is to work closely with your allergy specialist to keep things under control throughout your pregnancy.
Experts aren’t sure why some women’s asthma symptoms get worse. But typically, if things do get worse, it’s during the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester. The increase in symptoms could be because as the baby grows, the womb presses on the diaphragm, making breathing more difficult. Or, the compaction in the abdominal area may lead to gastroesophagel reflux (GERD for short), which can worsen asthma symptoms. Stress may also play a role.
We don’t know why some women feel better with their asthma in pregnancy, either. But experts theorize that it might have to do with an increase in the hormone cortisol that occurs during pregnancy.
The good news is that if you’ve been pregnant before, then you probably know what to expect in the future with pregnancy and asthma, because it’s usually the same each time. Also, no matter what happens during your pregnancy, don’t worry too much about having a safe delivery – as long as you’ve kept your asthma under control. Only about 1 in 10 women have asthma symptoms during labor and delivery.
How Asthma Can Affect Pregnancy
If asthma is well–controlled, it shouldn’t affect your pregnancy. But, if asthma during pregnancy is not kept under control, then high blood pressure and a condition called pre–eclampsia could result. Pre–eclampsia causes fluid retention and leaking of protein into the urine, which can lead to a number of health problems. Although usually the woman will recover after the delivery, her condition could progress to seizures, which can threaten both mom and baby’s lives.
How Asthma Can Affect Your Unborn Baby
Again, as long as your asthma is under control, your baby will not be affected by it. However, if your asthma is poorly controlled, you will likely have less oxygen in your blood. And, since your baby receives oxygen from you, this could mean your baby is not getting enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen can affect fetal growth and development, because fetuses require a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to thrive.