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Learn more about the Asthma management program at the Women’s Medicine Collaborative
Asthma is a lung disease with chronic airway inflammation, causing your airway to tighten up and making it hard to breathe. There is no cure for asthma and severe symptoms can happen any time. However, most people can manage their asthma and keep it under control. If you are pregnant and have asthma, it’s important to work with your doctor to manage it and get medical care when needed.
If your asthma is uncontrolled, you may be at risk for developing high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure disorder that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with signs of damage to organ systems, including the kidneys, liver, blood or brain. Uncontrolled asthma may also mean your baby is not getting enough oxygen, increasing the risk for several health conditions including:
Asthma is managed during pregnancy through monitoring lung function, avoiding and controlling asthma triggers, using individualized pharmacologic therapies and staying educated about your condition.
Asthma can be hard to diagnose, so your doctor will need to diagnose you by taking your health history, doing a physical exam and listening to your breathing. He or she may have you take a spirometry, a kind of lung function test where you exhale into a machine called a spirometer. The machine measures the amount of air you breathe and how fast you can breathe. When you’re pregnant, normal changes in your body can make you short of breath. This test can help determine if your shortness of breath is caused by asthma or not.
Asthma affects 4 to 8 percent of pregnancies. Around 30 percent of women who had asthma prior to pregnancy experienced worsened asthma while pregnant.
Some of the signs and symptoms of asthma include:
Because uncontrolled or severe asthma can affect your baby, it is important to pay attention to signs of worsening asthma. Signs that your asthma could be worsening include:
Multiple things can trigger asthma symptoms, and the triggers can be different, depending on the person. However, some of the most common asthma triggers include:
Pregnant women manage their asthma the same way nonpregnant women do. However, special considerations and attention should be taken when you are pregnant to avoid any complications.
Some of the measures you can take to best manage your symptoms include:
Your doctor will need to monitor your lungs throughout your pregnancy and adjust medications as needed. Keeping regular health care appointments is a must. Other reasons you should see your doctor include:
If you were previously diagnosed with asthma or develop it during pregnancy, it is important to pay attention to worsening symptoms. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening. While your doctor can help you manage your symptoms in the long term, you may experience an asthma attack that requires emergency treatment. Signs of an asthma emergency include:
Seek emergency treatment if you experience any of these symptoms. Speak with your doctor to develop an action plan in the case of such an emergency.