As news of a pregnancy breaks, it brings as much joy as concerns. And if the would-be-mother is living with asthma, the level of concerns would be higher.
Asthma, one of the most common conditions affecting the lungs of pregnant women, is known to trouble up to 8 percent of expecting mothers. Many women suffering from asthma are worried about the possible adverse effects of asthma on their health and the growth of the baby during the course of pregnancy.
Several studies have advocated the use of inhalers during pregnancy for better-controlled asthma and management of symptom exacerbations. Untreated asthma, on the other hand, can cause complications.
“It is very important to maintain adequate control of asthma during pregnancy for the health and overall well-being of the mother and the developing baby,” advises Dr Vivek Nangia, Director, Fortis Lung Centre, Fortis Hospital.
An estimated 3.7 to 8.4 per cent of pregnant women have been found to be suffering from asthma, which makes it potentially one of the most common medical problems that raise the risk of pregnancy-related complications, including high blood pressure, premature delivery, Cesarean delivery and low birth weight infants.
While severe asthma is known to increase the risks, better-controlled asthma is associated with decreased risks. Therefore, pregnant women should continue their asthma medications, since successful asthma management during pregnancy requires the would-be-mother to receive regular medical care and closely stick to her treatment plan.
Studies suggest that it is always safer for pregnant women to receive asthma medication than to get exposed to asthma symptoms and exacerbations.
“Good asthma control, particularly with the regular use of inhaled corticosteroids, is found to be effective in preventing asthma attacks during pregnancy. In addition, expert supervision in terms of monitoring, proper precautions and requisite adjustments to keep asthma in check are mandatory to ensure lung functions remain normal and the foetus continues to get adequate oxygen supply,” advises Dr KK Pandey, Senior Consultant, Max Hospital.
If the mother doesn’t get adequate oxygen herself during an asthma attack, it may also affect the oxygen supply to the child. Though babies do not breathe when inside the womb (uterus), they need regular supply of oxygen from their mothers’ blood for their healthy growth and development,” Dr Pandey adds.
- In India, everybody has a suggestion for the pregnant woman. While some of the advices may be harmless, some are mere myths with serious implications. One such myth surrounding asthma treatment during pregnancy is about the use of inhalers.
- Some people may have a misconception that inhalers should not be used during pregnancy but several studies rule out any such possibility. There are clear evidences about the effectiveness of inhaled corticosteroid therapy in reducing the risk of pregnancy-related asthma exacerbations and improving lung function (FEV1). So, don’t believe in hearsay. It is always better to consult an expert before starting or discontinuing any medicine during pregnancy.
- While on the subject of inhalers, the effectiveness of medications is found to be the same in pregnant women as in non-pregnant women.
- In addition to continuing with the asthma therapy and use of inhalers, controlling asthma triggers is one of the major determinants of a successful asthma management regimen during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about identifying, controlling or preventing asthma triggers, including allergens and irritants, specifically tobacco smoke that can flare up the asthma symptoms thereby leading to pregnancy-related complications.
- Patient education is the key to asthma control. Mothers need to be educated about the ways and precautions required to control or manage it, which can be self-monitoring, right use of inhalers and adhering to an effective program to manage asthma. The expecting mother can herself take certain simple steps to counter environmental factors responsible for worsening of asthma and trigger attacks.