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Asthma and pregnancy

5-minute read

Will pregnancy affect my asthma?

Pregnancy can affect your asthma in different ways. About 1 in 3 pregnant women with asthma find that pregnancy makes their asthma worse. However, about 1 in 3 women find that their asthma gets better during pregnancy. If you have severe asthma, your symptoms are more likely to worsen during pregnancy.

Hormonal and physical changes that naturally occur during pregnancy can make it feel harder for you to breathe at times. As your pregnant uterus and baby grows, there is less space inside for your lungs to ventilate. Many pregnant women, with and without asthma, report feeling short of breath at times particularly towards the end of pregnancy. If you are concerned that your shortness of breath is persistent or worsening, you should contact your doctor or midwife immediately.

Your doctor can help you work out which of your symptoms are a normal part of pregnancy, and which may be related to your asthma and need to be managed.

Even if your asthma gets worse when you are pregnant, it usually returns to normal a few months after your baby is born.

How do I manage my asthma during pregnancy?

Asthma should be managed according to your personalised asthma plan, including when you are pregnant. Visiting your doctor every 4 to 6 weeks will allow you to adjust your asthma plan if your symptoms change during pregnancy.

You should keep taking your asthma medicine while you are pregnant. Asthma medicines are considered safe for use in pregnancy, and poorly controlled asthma is dangerous for you and your baby. Some women feel concerned about taking steroid inhalers or pills when they are pregnant. If your doctor advises you to use steroid pills to manage severe asthma, it is safer for you and your baby to do so than to leave your asthma unmanaged.

Research is ongoing as to whether montelukast is safe for pregnant women, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking it during pregnancy

Will having asthma affect my baby?

Your asthma may affect your baby if it is not well controlled. If you are finding it hard to breathe, then your baby is too. This can lead to your baby not getting enough oxygen, which can result in pregnancy complications. Carefully managing your asthma, by having regular check-ups with your doctor and by following your asthma plan, reduces the risk that your asthma will affect your baby.

Will having asthma affect how I give birth?

Having asthma does not usually affect how you will give birth. Asthma symptoms during labour can generally be managed according to your asthma plan. Bring your asthma medications with you to the hospital or birthing centre when you go into labour, as well as a written copy of your asthma plan. You will be able to keep using your asthma medications during labour.

Severe asthma exacerbations (asthma attacks) are rare during labour.

Can I breastfeed if I am taking asthma medication?

You can safely breastfeed your baby when taking asthma medication. Breastfeeding your baby gives them the nutrients they need for the first months of their life, and some protection from disease. There is no need to wait between taking asthma medicine and breastfeeding your baby.

Montelukast can pass to your baby in breastmilk, and it is not yet known whether it is safe for babies. You should not take montelukast while breastfeeding unless your doctor advises you that it is necessary to keep your asthma under control.

Will my baby have asthma?

Asthma tends to run in families, so your baby is more likely to have asthma if you or other close family members do. Smoking, or being near other people who are smoking, while you are pregnant increases the chance that your baby will have asthma.

Who can I talk to for information and advice?

Your doctor, including your asthma specialist and your midwife, can answer your questions about pregnancy and asthma. They can also make sure that your asthma action plan is up to date. If you are concerned about managing your asthma during pregnancy, you can call the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby information line on 1800 882 436 (free service) for advice and support from a maternal child health nurse.

Asthma Australia has information on pregnancy and asthma, including information in other languages. For more information you can also contact the Asthma Foundation in your state by calling 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462 — free call).

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2022

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Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

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