Asthma is a disease of lungs, which leads to chronic inflammation of respiratory tract, making breathing extremely difficult. Unfortunately, there is no medicine that completely cures asthma. Most people with asthma manage to keep the disease under control and avoid serious health problems.
But if you are pregnant, and you have asthma attacks during pregnancy, it is very important for you to consult a doctor about how to control your illness and, if necessary, get qualified medical help.
Influence of Asthma on Pregnancy
According to Canadian Family Pharmacy medstore data, asthma affects 4 to 8 of 100 pregnant women (that is, about 4 to 8%). If you can control your asthma, then it most likely will not affect your pregnancy in any way. But if your illness goes out of control, then you are at great risk of experiencing such a serious pregnancy complication as pre-eclampsia – a condition that is characterized by strong increase in blood pressure.
If asthma can not be controlled, this can lead to insufficient supply of oxygen to the baby, which can cause such problems with baby’s health and with course of pregnancy as:
- premature labor (labor until 37 full weeks of pregnancy);
- insufficient growth and body weight (less than 2,270 kg) of the baby at birth.
Newborn children who were born too small or too early often have various health problems. So, for example, they may have problems with breathing, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
Symptoms of Asthma
As a rule, symptoms of asthma do not manifest themselves alone, and patient complains about a whole complex of symptoms, which include:
- feeling of constriction in chest, suffocation;
- persistent cough (especially at night or early morning);
- wheezing during breathing;
Very often people do not realize that they have asthma, attributing everything to seasonal allergies or allergies to dust, pets, etc. Therefore, in order to exclude asthma, it is better to consult a doctor if these symptoms appear.
Please note that asthma symptoms often change during pregnancy. Sometimes they improve, and sometimes they get worse. Reasons for such changes are unknown. In particular, symptoms can worsen because of heartburn, which is a frequent companion of a pregnant women. Therefore, to avoid attacks of asthma, try to avoid heartburn, for which you do the following:
- sleep, placing a pillow under the head and upper body, so that the body is slightly elevated;
- eat during the day several times in small portions;
- do not eat 2 hours before going to bed;
- use heartburn medications that can be used by pregnant women.
Causes of Asthma
Canadian Family Pharmacy divided the most common causes of asthma into several groups.
1. Allergens – about 70% of people with asthma have allergies. Allergy is body’s reaction to what a person touches, eats or breathes. Most often this reaction manifests itself in the form of sneezing, appearance of allergic rash, or problems with breathing.
Allergens are things that cause allergies, and many of allergens cause asthma symptoms (allergic asthma). The most common allergens are pollen, mold, animal hair, dust mites and cockroaches.
In order not to provoke attacks of allergy or asthma, it is necessary to limit as much as possible contact with allergens. If this does not help, your doctor may recommend that you start taking medications for allergies. There are a number of drugs that you can continue to take during pregnancy. But if you did not take any medications for allergy before pregnancy, you should not start taking them, already being pregnant, if there is not emergency. When you are pregnant, starting using antihistamines, on the contrary, can lead to serious allergic reactions, which are called anaphylaxis.
2. Irritants are things in your environment that can damage your lungs and cause asthma symptoms, for example, polluted air, tobacco smoke and smoke from wood stoves or fireplaces, cold air and strong smells (from paint or perfume).
3. Infections – such as influenza, ARVI or viral pneumonia, can cause asthma symptoms in some people.
4. Exercise – because breathing is disrupted during exercise, many people may exhibit asthma symptoms during exercise (exercise-induced asthma), so if gymnastic exercises for pregnant women cause choking attacks, then it is better to abandon them.
Diagnosis of Asthma
Diagnosing asthma is often very difficult. To find out if you have asthma, your doctor should carefully examine your medical history, make physical examination and listen to your breathing.
You will also need to undergo lung function testing – spirometry. This study tests how well your lungs work. During spirometry, you take a deep breath, and then with effort blow out all air in the special device – spirometer. This device measures amount of air you breathe in and out. It also shows how fast you can breathe.
When you are pregnant, natural changes in your body can lead to appearance of shortness of breath, and it is spirometry that will help doctor find out if your dyspnea is a normal «side effect» of pregnancy or it is caused by asthma.
Asthma Treatment during Pregnancy
Your attending physician should constantly monitor condition of your lungs while you are carrying the baby, in order to (if necessary) prescribe medications for you. Be sure to tell your doctor about any changes in symptoms of the disease, especially if you feel worse or attacks of suffocation become frequent.
If you limit your contact with various allergens and other factors that cause asthma attacks, you will most likely not need to take any medications to control the disease.
But if asthma symptoms are serious or appear too often, then this can be a risk to you and health of your child. Therefore, if asthma first appeared during pregnancy, then you’d better discuss with your doctor what drugs you can take to control your condition. If you have been taking asthma medications before pregnancy, then you can not stop taking them without recommendation of your doctor.
In one of 10 pregnant women with asthma, asthma attacks begin during childbirth. So just in case, going to the hospital, take your asthma medication with you so that you can use them if necessary.
Additional Tests for Pregnant Women with Asthma
If your asthma is in mild form and well controlled, then you do not need any additional examinations. But if your asthma is in moderate or severe form or poorly controlled, your doctor may prescribe you additional ultrasound studies of fetus to make sure that the baby is growing normally. As a rule, such additional ultrasound is prescribed on 32 – 34 week of pregnancy.
You can also be advised to undergo a study of child’s heart rate with fetal monitoring of fetal heart. The results of this study will help your doctor in time to identify health problems of the child, if they suddenly appear, and decide whether you and your child need special care.
Asthma Treatment during Breastfeeding
Drugs that are prescribed for asthma during pregnancy penetrate into breast milk, so women are always concerned about the question: «Is this treatment safe for the child?» Despite penetration of these drugs into breast milk, dose of the drug in it is very low, and is absolutely safe for a child.
But, if you have severe asthma and you take strong drugs (for example, theophylline) in large doses, your child may become irritable and may have troubles with sleeping. To prevent this, Canadian Family Pharmacy recommends to try to take medicine 3 to 4 hours before the next feeding.