Managing Asthma during Pregnancy
Do You Know What Makes Your Asthma Worse ?
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.
Do not smoke cigarettes, and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Both can make asthma worse and pose major risks for your unborn baby.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pregnancy can be an intensely emotional time. Emotions do not cause asthma, but if a person has asthma, strong emotions can make it worse.
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.
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.
The Importance of an Asthma Action Plan
Early awareness of asthma symptoms and peak flow monitoring can help you and your doctor respond quickly to worsening of your asthma during pregnancy. It is important to identify and
treat your asthma when the symptoms are still mild to reduce the risk of a more serious episode. Common asthma symptoms may vary from person to
person and include the following:
♦ Shortness of breath
♦ Tightness in the chest
Many of these symptoms are common during pregnancy, and it sometimes may be difficult to tell if the cause is the increasing size of your baby or your asthma. An asthma action plan is a written plan based on changes in asthma symptoms and peak flow numbers, customized to your needs by your doctor, to help you manage asthma worsening. It will give you information about when and how to use long-term control medicine and quick-relief medicine. It is a reminder of what to watch for and what steps to take so you will be able to make timely and appropriate decisions about managing your asthma during your pregnancy.
Source: National Jewish Health, njhealth.org
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2013.