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Allergies, Asthma, & Pregnancy

Your Questions Answered

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If you are pregnant and have asthma or allergies, you may feel uneasy about taking medications, but it is very important to keep your symptoms under control. Here are answers to some of the most common questions women have about managing allergies & asthma during pregnancy.

Q: How do you stay healthy and know which medications are best for you during your pregnancy?
A: An allergist can tell you which asthma and allergy medications are the safest and most effective to take throughout pregnancy. Make an appointment with an allergist soon after you discover you are pregnant to develop or review your personal treatment plan and to give you peace of mind.

Q: Can women with asthma have safe pregnancies?
A: Yes. With good asthma management, you can keep your asthma under control and have a healthy baby.

The risks of asthma flare-ups are greater than the risks of taking necessary asthma medications.

Q: How does uncontrolled asthma affect the fetus?
A: Uncontrolled asthma symptoms can cause a decrease in the amount of oxygen in your blood supply. The fetus gets its oxygen from your blood. Since a fetus needs a constant supply of oxygen for normal growth and development, managing asthma symptoms is very important to allow you and your baby to get enough oxygen.

Q: Is it safe to take my asthma medications?
A: The risks of asthma flare-ups are greater than the risks of taking necessary asthma medications. Studies show that most inhaled asthma medications are safe for women to use while pregnant. However, oral medications (pills) should be avoided unless necessary to control symptoms. Knowing which medications to take is a good reason to stay in close contact with your doctor so he or she can monitor your condition and alter your medications or dosages if needed.

Q: Will being pregnant affect my asthma symptoms
A: Pregnancy may affect the severity of your asthma symptoms. One study showed that asthma symptoms were worse in 35 percent of pregnant women, improved in 28 percent, and remained the same in 33 percent of pregnant women. Asthma has a tendency to get worse in the late second and early third trimesters, and many women have fewer symptoms during the last four weeks of pregnancy.

Q: Can I continue to get allergy shots during pregnancy?
A: Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is safe to take while you are pregnant. As always, your doctor will monitor your dose to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction to the shots. These reactions are rare; however, a reaction could be harmful to the fetus. Also, allergy shots should not be started for the first time during pregnancy.

Q: What should I avoid if I have asthma or allergies?
A: Whether you are pregnant or not, you should stay away from things that trigger your symptoms. This might include allergens, such as dust mites and animal dander, and irritants, such as cigarette smoke.

Q: Can women with asthma perform Lamaze?
A: Most women with asthma are able to do Lamaze breathing techniques without any problems. Asthma symptoms are rare during labor and delivery in women whose asthma has been managed during pregnancy.

Q: Can I breastfeed if I am taking medications for my asthma or allergies?
A: Breastfeeding is a good way to increase your child’s immunity, and it is strongly recommended. Medications recommended for use during pregnancy can be continued while nursing, because the baby gets less maternal medicine through breast milk than in the womb. Your doctor can discuss with you the best treatments while nursing.

Although these are common questions during pregnancy, each woman’s individual treatment varies. It is best to visit your allergist regularly during pregnancy so that any worsening of asthma can be countered by appropriate changes in your asthma management plan. Make sure to discuss any specific concerns with your physician to ensure the healthiest pregnancy for your well-being and that of your baby.

 

Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, www.aaaai.org

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2011.