Symptoms and Signs of Asthma during Pregnancy

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 12/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Asthma during Pregnancy

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. When you are pregnant and have an asthma attack, the fetus may not get enough oxygen, which can put the fetus in great danger. If you took medication for asthma before getting pregnant, you may need to continue taking it during pregnancy. The risk to the fetus from most asthma medications is tiny compared to the risk from a severe asthma attack, and women with uncontrolled asthma are more likely to have complications during pregnancy. 

Symptoms of asthma during pregnancy for the mother are the same as those of asthma at any other time and may include

  • wheezing,
  • coughing, or
  • difficulty breathing.

Uncontrolled asthma can make a pregnant woman more likely to experience preeclampsia or high blood pressure (hypertension), which can also put the baby at risk. Symptoms of asthma during pregnancy for the fetus if the mother has an asthma attack may include a greater risk of being born preterm (premature), small or underweight at birth, and longer hospitalization may be required after birth. 

What Is the Treatment for Asthma During Pregnancy?

The treatment of asthma during pregnancy does not differ from the treatment of asthma when not pregnant. Staying healthy by eating right, exercising regularly, and not smoking all help keep asthma under control.

Most asthma medications are safe to use during pregnancy and can be continued as you usually use them. Medications commonly used for asthma during pregnancy include:

  • Inhaled bronchodilators 
  • Anti-leukotriene medications
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Oral corticosteroids

Talk with your doctor about which medications to continue to treat your asthma during pregnancy. Have a plan in case you have an asthma flare and seek medical care right away if you are feeling very short of breath, breathing very rapidly, or you feel like your asthma is not responding to your usual medications.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.