Managing Asthma While You Are Pregnant

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: March 2021

If you are expecting a baby and you have asthma, you probably wonder how you can keep your asthma under control. You are not alone. About 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women in the United States have asthma.1

The good news is that expectant mothers living with asthma can safely take their asthma medicines. More than 60 percent of pregnant women take asthma drugs to treat their asthma symptoms and avoid flare-ups.2

What are the risks of asthma during pregnancy?

Your unborn baby needs a constant supply of oxygen to grow and develop. This oxygen comes from your blood. If your asthma is not controlled, the amount of oxygen that reaches your baby could decrease, impacting the health of your baby. Some risks of uncontrolled asthma include:3

  • Low birth weight for your baby
  • High blood pressure for yourself
  • Giving birth before week 37 of your pregnancy

Well-controlled asthma in pregnancy is important for the health of both you and your unborn baby.3

Is it safe to take asthma medicine while pregnant?

Some asthma medicines are “safer” than others because the risk of taking them is less than the risks of uncontrolled asthma. These “safer” medicines include short-acting inhaled bronchodilators, some inhaled steroids (like budesonide), and medicines like montelukast (Singulair®).3

Additional asthma drugs that may be safe during pregnancy include long-acting medicines (like Serevent®, Symbicort®, and Advair®).3

Talk to your doctor about your current asthma drugs and your pregnancy to make sure you are on the best treatment. If you are getting allergy shots, you may be able to continue them during your pregnancy.3

Learn about drug safety

Ask your doctor before starting or stopping a medicine during pregnancy. You may also look for additional information about a medicine on its label. The labels provide information about how a medicine could affect a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.4,5

Does asthma get better or worse during pregnancy?

Asthma symptoms may vary with pregnancy. On average:3

  • 1 in 3 women have worse symptoms during pregnancy
  • 1 in 3 women do not notice a change in symptoms during pregnancy
  • 1 in 3 women have fewer symptoms during pregnancy

Within 3 months after giving birth, women whose asthma symptoms changed during pregnancy will usually see their symptoms return to what they were before pregnancy.3

Can I breastfeed if I take asthma drugs?

Some medicines do get into breast milk. But in most cases, the amounts are very low and are safe for your baby. High doses of certain asthma medicines, like theophylline, may affect your baby. Check with your doctor about the safety and schedule of your asthma drugs. Your doctor can tell you what is right for you and your baby so you can both get the health benefits of breastfeeding.1

How can I avoid asthma attacks during pregnancy?

Know and avoid your asthma triggers. When possible, try to avoid allergens like animal dander, pollen, mold, and dust mites. Try to stay away from people who are sick. If you smoke, talk to your doctor about your options for quitting. Smoking may worsen asthma and affect the health of your unborn baby.3

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