Asthma during pregnancy

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As per the World Health Organization, 235 million people worldwide suffer from Asthma and is the most common chronic health condition found in children.[1] Asthma is one of the most commonly known conditions that is widespread, particularly in developed countries. It is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by breathlessness and wheezing. The condition occurs when the airways are narrowed and swollen and causes difficulty in breathing.

Asthma is one of the most common forms of chronic lung disease in pregnancy.[2] Asthma during pregnancy results in shortness of breath and can cause decreased oxygenation. The condition if not managed properly during pregnancy can be fatal to the growing fetus.

If it is the first time you are experiencing shortness of breath and wheezing during pregnancy, it is most likely that you may disregard the symptoms considering it to be a one-time experience. It is most unlikely for pregnancy to cause asthma, however, if you already have asthma, it may remain unchanged, worsen or even improve during pregnancy. If asthma improves during pregnancy, the condition will show positive changes over the course and if the condition deteriorates, the severity will begin to manifest in the form of symptoms after the 26th week. Asthma can be caused due to genetic and environmental factors, hence it cannot be affirmed that the baby may develop asthma if you suffer from the condition.

A lot of times, the symptoms manifested are misunderstood even though it is characterized by shortness of breath, which is the most obvious symptom of asthma. Symptoms of asthma during pregnancy include coughing, majorly at night, shortness of breath, wheezing, tightness in the chest and difficulty in breathing. Pregnancy may affect asthmatic women in various ways.  The severity of asthma can vary from month to month or even season to season. 4%-8% of pregnant women worldwide are affected by Asthma.[3] A pregnant woman may also experience acid reflux during her course of pregnancy.

Although in most cases, asthma has no effect on a woman’s pregnancy, asthma if mismanaged can lead to serious consequences of fetal health. Moreover symptoms of asthma can change and differ during pregnancy. Being affected by flu for prolonged periods may be the onset of major asthma. On observing any such symptoms it is important to visit a specialist to rule out the possibilities of asthma and to take the necessary medication to control the condition.

Some research studies show that mismanaged or uncontrolled asthma can cause women to have pre-term deliveries, pre-eclampsia and babies with low birth weight. Pre-eclampsia is a condition that causes a woman to have high blood pressure causing major organs to not function properly. Lack of oxygen supply to the fetus can cause the baby to suffer major health concerns like oxygen deficiency leading to death.

Asthma during pregnancy is managed in the same way that it is otherwise. There are a lot of myths surrounding the medications to be taken during pregnancy. It is true that any medication taken by you during pregnancy will affect your baby as well, but it is safer to take medications during pregnancy than experience an asthma attack because if you are having difficulty in breathing it will affect your baby too. A specialist will only prescribe you a treatment plan keeping in mind utmost safety of your baby. Apart from clinical treatment plans, it is advisable to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid asthma triggers. Avoid exposure to too much dust, pollen, smoking, second-hand smoke and any other irritants to reduce possible symptoms. Strong scents can trigger asthma and it is best to avoid any strong scent or perfume. Gastro esophageal reflux disease is a chronic digestive disorder than can worsen the symptoms of asthma. Necessary steps should be taken to reduce and control the symptoms of GERD. Above all, make sure you know your warning signs and triggers, being aware of what triggers asthma and noticing unusual symptoms in the body are extremely crucial to manage asthma in the early stages.

Asthma attacks generally do not occur during labor, properly controlled asthma will have no impact on pregnancy, labor or even breastfeeding. However, it is still not advisable to take drastic steps to change your medication routine during the time. It is extremely crucial to keep good control over your asthma during pregnancy because you are breathing for two – your baby and you.

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