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Managing Asthma during Pregnancy

Do You Know What Makes Your Asthma Worse ?

Asthma image

Most women with asthma do very well during pregnancy. There is good evidence that having asthma does not increase your chances of having a baby with birth defects or of having multiple births. Furthermore, studies show that asthma can be controlled with medication dur­ing pregnancy with little or no risk to you or your baby. Together, you and your doctor will determine the best ways to safely manage your asthma, including weighing the benefits of all medication you take versus the risks of those medications to both you and your unborn baby.

During pregnancy, it is important to know what things may make your asthma worse and how to avoid or cope with them. The following are things that may make your asthma worse, especially during pregnancy.

Irritants
Do not smoke cigarettes, and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Both can make asthma worse and pose major risks for your unborn baby.

Allergies
During pregnancy, make a special effort to avoid things you are allergic to. Pollen, mold, animal dander, house dust mites, and cockroaches are common allergens.

Exercise
Continuing to exercise while pregnant is desirable, but if exer­cise makes your asthma worse, talk with your doctor. Using inhaled medication before you exercise can often prevent asthma symptoms while you exercise.

Infections
A cold, the flu, or other respiratory infections can make asthma worse. Good hand washing is the most effective way to avoid the spread of common cold viruses. And the yearly flu vaccine is strongly recommended for people with asthma; it may be given during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Sinusitis
This can make asthma worse, especially at night. Treating the inflammation in the nose and decreasing the post-nasal drip can reduce cough and throat irritation. Sinusitis is often treated with a nasal wash or a steroid nasal spray. It also may be treated with an antibiotic.

Emotions
Pregnancy can be an in­tensely emotional time. Emotions do not cause asthma, but if a person has asthma, strong emotions can make it worse.

Weather
Your asthma may worsen with changes in the weather, especially when they are sudden. You should be prepared to dress accordingly and avoid polluted or cold air. Work with your doctor on keeping your asthma under good control whatever climate you live in, whatever the season.

Gastrointestinal or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
In some people, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach allows some backflow of stom­ach acid into the esophagus. This can cause heartburn and may also cause constriction of your bronchial tubes, resulting in asthma symptoms. This is more common during pregnancy, but it is treatable.

Hormone Changes
You will experi­ence a variety of hormonal changes during pregnancy. These hormones can affect both your emotions and your asthma. Your asthma may worsen, im­prove, or stay the same while you are pregnant. If you are among the one-third of pregnant women whose asthma worsens, you may need additional medication.

 

Source: National Jewish Health, njhealth.org

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2013.