Over 5 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma, so it goes without saying that sometimes the condition affects pregnant women. Having asthma does not necessarily make pregnancy more dangerous, but the effects can be unpredictable.
If you have asthma, being pregnant may result in a change in your symptoms. Around one third of women find their symptoms worsen, one third see an improvement and the rest experience no change at all.
Signs that your asthma may be getting worse include shortness of breath,wheezing, a cough or tightness in your chest. It's usually only those who already have severe asthma whose symptoms may be exacerbated by pregnancy. Women who are used to dealing with their condition may not consider these symptoms to be a problem, but pregnancy is not the time to neglect your health, so ensure you seek advice from a health professional.
As long as your asthma is properly controlled you should enjoy a normal pregnancy with little or no added risk. Most experts now agree that it is far safer for the baby if you are efficiently controlling your asthma during pregnancy, rather than avoiding treatment. There is always a risk when you do not properly manage asthma, and as long as your symptoms have not changed, all you need to do is stick to your usual; asthma treatment plan. If you do find your symptoms become better or worse, speak to your GP or asthma nurse about modifying your treatment.
Pregnant women should manage asthma in the same way that non-pregnant women do - have an asthma action plan ready, understand how to react if you experience symptoms and ensure that you are as prepared as possible.
Make sure you speak with your GP or asthma nurse regularly throughout your pregnancy, and it's also a good idea to talk to your midwife about your asthma and make a plan for managing your symptoms while you are in labour.
Having said that, asthma attacks during labour are unusual, because at this time the body is producing natural steroid hormones to help with the labour, the same hormones that help prevent asthma attacks. If you do experience symptoms, however, it should be safe to use your reliever inhaler as usual.
In any case, the most important thing is that you communicate with your health professionals and ensure you follow the guidelines that they give you. Taking care to manage your asthma is the best way to ensure that you keep yourself and your baby safe during your pregnancy.