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Asthma in pregnancy: Effects, complications, and safe treatments

Asthma is a long-term lung condition that can be well-managed with the right treatment.

The risk of pregnancy complications is low when asthma is well-controlled, but otherwise, asthma can increase the risk of certain problems.

This article explores the effects, complications, and safe treatments of asthma during pregnancy.

How does asthma affect pregnancy?

Asthma is the most common chronic disease that affects pregnant women. However, well-managed asthma is not a concern during pregnancy.

If a woman controls asthma symptoms with effective treatment, they are unlikely to cause any pregnancy complications.

It is important to note that asthma symptoms flare in up to 45 percent of pregnant women with the condition. If asthma is severe or not treated effectively, symptoms during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications.

According to a 2013 medical review, women with mild asthma are unlikely to experience more severe symptoms during pregnancy. Women with moderate to severe asthma may find that pregnancy makes their symptoms worse.

If symptoms do worsen, this is most likely to happen late in the second trimester. Exacerbations of symptoms occur infrequently during late pregnancy and labor.

Stopping or reducing the intake of medication during pregnancy can make symptoms worse for women with any type of asthma.

The aim of asthma treatment during pregnancy is to avoid flare-ups. This helps to ensure that the fetus gets a steady supply of oxygen, reducing the likelihood of complications.

A doctor will step up treatment according to the severity of a woman’s symptoms, then reduce the medications once the symptoms are under control.

The doctor will monitor the woman’s lungs and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. They may also perform an ultrasound to check on the baby’s development.

Strategies to prevent asthma complications during pregnancy include:

  • seeing the doctor regularly
  • taking medication as prescribed
  • getting a flu shot, as the flu can trigger an asthma flare-up
  • avoiding asthma triggers, including quitting smoking
  • reducing stress, for example through yoga, mindfulness, or meditation
  • eating small meals and not lying down immediately afterward to reduce the risk of heartburn, which can worsen asthma symptoms
  • recognizing early signs of a flare-up and seeing the doctor when this happens


During pregnancy, asthma that is not well-managed can cause health complications for the woman and the baby. Preeclampsia, restricted growth, low birthweight, premature birth, and the need for a cesarean delivery become more likely.

Following a treatment plan is the best way to manage asthma symptoms.

Well-controlled asthma does not increase the risk of complications, and many women with asthma have healthy pregnancies.

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