Questions and answers
Know your asthma medications
There are three types of asthma medications: relievers,
Will asthma medications harm my baby?
preventers and symptom controllers. Your doctor will prescribe
Most medications used to treat asthma have a much lower
the medication best for you.
risk to your baby than having asthma symptoms. It is much
Relievers (Airomir, Asmol, Bricanyl, Epaq and Ventolin) – these
safer to use regular inhaled preventer medications, that have
medicines provide relief from asthma symptoms within
been taken by a large number of pregnant women around the
minutes. If you need to use your reliever more than 3–4 times
world, than to risk an asthma attack. A severe asthma attack
a week (not counting use before exercise), it may be a sign
– or some medications that are used to treat severe attacks
that your asthma is not well controlled and you should tell your
(prednisolone tablets) – are more likely to harm your baby than
regular medications for preventing attacks.
Atrovent is a different type of reliever. If you normally take
Atrovent, tell your doctor that you are pregnant.
Can I just put up with asthma symptoms while I’m
Preventers (Alvesco, Flixotide, Intal, Intal Forte, Pulmicort,
Qvar, Singulair, Tilade) – these medications make the airways
No – this is unsafe and not recommended. Asthma can increase
less sensitive. Preventers usually need to be taken every
the risk of pregnancy complications and increase the chance
day, even when feeling well. If you normally take an inhaled
that your baby will be born early or with a low birth weight. You
preventer medication, you should keep taking it unless your
can reduce these risks by keeping your asthma under control.
doctor tells you that you no longer need it. If you normally take
Uncontrolled asthma puts you and your baby at risk.
preventer tablets (Singulair), tell your doctor that you are
What happens if I have an asthma attack while I’m
Symptom controllers (Foradile, Oxis and Serevent) – these
medications act like relievers, but the effects are longer
If you have an asthma attack during pregnancy, it will be treated
lasting and they are normally taken long term. They should
the same as an attack that occurs at any other time. Tell the
only be taken with a preventer. They should not be taken in an
emergency centre staff that you are pregnant, but don’t worry
asthma attack. If you normally take a symptom controller, tell
– most treatments used during asthma attacks are much safer
your doctor that you are pregnant.
for your baby than an untreated asthma attack.
Combination medications Seretide (Flixotide and Serevent)
and Symbicort (Pulmicort and Oxis) – if you normally take a
Will I have an asthma attack while giving birth?
combination medication, tell your doctor that you are pregnant.
What you need to know
Asthma attacks rarely happen during labour. Any asthma
symptoms are usually easily controlled with usual asthma
If you would like more information on asthma,
to stay well
medications. Like other women, most women with asthma can
visit www.asthmasa.org.au or call 1800 645 130.
expect a normal vaginal birth. If you have very severe asthma
For information on medications during pregnancy and
or asthma that is difficult to control, tell your obstetrician and
breastfeeding please call the Medicines & Drug Information
midwife that you have asthma so that they can talk to the doctor
Centre, Women’s and Children’s Hospital on 08 8161 7222.
who manages your asthma.
Asthma Foundation of SA
300 South Road Hilton 5033
Breathe Better Health Line
1800 645 130
Revised and reprinted by Asthma Foundation of SA. August 2008.
The AFSA acknowledges the support of Asthma Foundation NSW for providing the content for this brochure.
This brochure contains general information and is not intended to replace medical advice.
This project was supported by funding from NSW Health.
Produced by Asthma Foundation NSW in consultation with the NSW Office of the Royal Australian
1800 645 130
& New Zealand College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists.
© Copyright Asthma Foundation NSW September 2006
Reproduction for educational purposes is permitted.
Good asthma control is especially important throughout your
Good asthma control is especially important during pregnancy.
If your asthma is difficult to control, or if you have had an
pregnancy, because you are breathing for your baby as well as
Your doctor may arrange to check your asthma every 4–6 weeks
asthma attack while pregnant, your doctor may recommend extra
yourself. You need to take special care to make sure your lungs
while you are pregnant.
ultrasound checks to make sure the baby is healthy and growing
are working at their peak so your baby has a good oxygen supply
Most asthma medications have no special safety concerns for
and can grow properly.
pregnant women and should be continued during pregnancy.
Stopping your medications can put your baby at risk.
During your pregnancy, if you get asthma symptoms when you
About half of Australian women with asthma experience
If you don’t have an Asthma Action Plan, ask your doctor for
do physical activity, see your doctor. You should also ask your
temporary worsening of their asthma while they are pregnant,
doctor about your asthma if you want to do more exercise while
and some need urgent medical care. The risk of a serious
you are pregnant.
asthma attack is higher for women who stop taking their usual
While you are pregnant
asthma medications while pregnant. It is especially important to
If you take regular preventer medication, make sure you keep
Warnings and reassurance
keep taking the medications prescribed by your doctor, because
taking it, because it will help stop asthma troubling you during
The aim of good asthma control is to avoid these problems:
uncontrolled asthma puts you and your baby at risk.
pregnancy. Stopping your medication during pregnancy increases
Low birth weight – babies born to women with asthma may
the chance of serious asthma attacks and puts your unborn baby
have a higher risk of being small at birth. It is best for babies
With good asthma control, you can expect a normal pregnancy.
to reach their full weight before being born, because this helps
protect them against diabetes, heart disease and other
See your doctor if you need any information about your
Pay close attention to your asthma, and tell your doctor if you
conditions when they are adults.
medications or the information in this brochure.
have any asthma symptoms. If you have a viral infection (e.g. a
Pre-term babies – babies born to women with asthma may have
cold), your asthma could worsen, so check your Asthma Action
a higher risk of being born before reaching full term (pre-term
Plan and be ready to follow it.
birth). Pre-term birth can cause complications and can be
Will my asthma get worse while I am pregnant?
dangerous for the baby’s health.
Most women with mild asthma are not troubled by
Sometimes breathlessness can be normal during pregnancy,
Lack of oxygen – if asthma is not controlled, the mother and
asthma during pregnancy, but still need to have their
but if you have asthma you should tell your doctor if you feel
unborn baby may not get enough oxygen. This can cause
asthma checked regularly. Women whose asthma was
problems during pregnancy and after birth.
moderately severe or severe before pregnancy have a
higher chance of needing emergency care for asthma.
If you have hayfever, treating it with effective medications may help
Recent studies from Australia and around the world show that all
It is possible for asthma to recur during pregnancy, even
control your asthma. Some medications that are used to treat
of these problems are more likely in women whose asthma is
in women who have not had asthma symptoms since
allergic rhinitis (hayfever) are safe in pregnancy. Decongestants
severe or who have serious asthma attacks while they are
childhood, but this is not common.
(medications to unblock your nose) should not be taken by
pregnant. The good news is that if you have well-controlled
Asthma control can worsen at any time during pregnancy,
pregnant women. Do not take antihistamines without asking your
asthma, your risk is no higher than it is for women without
but any problems usually occur at around 17 to 36
doctor or pharmacist for advice. When buying any medications,
tell your pharmacist that you are pregnant.
The risk of a serious asthma attack is highest for women
Medical experts now believe that the risk of pre-term birth
who stop taking regular preventer medications during
and low birth weight are mainly due to asthma attacks during
What you can do
pregnancy – not just having asthma.
Keep a close check on your asthma during pregnancy, and
It is especially important to avoid asthma attacks while
see your doctor immediately if your asthma worsens.
you are pregnant. Here are some tips on how you can stop
Women with asthma who take regular preventer medication
your asthma from becoming worse:
during pregnancy have the same risk of having a small (low birth
Avoid smoking and breathing other people’s tobacco
weight) baby as women without asthma.
Planning a pregnancy
smoke. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the
If you have asthma and are planning to become pregnant, now
risk that your baby will have asthma, respiratory
After your baby is born
is a good time to talk to your doctor about your asthma and
infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and
Keep having your regular asthma check-ups. If asthma has
medications. You need to know these key facts:
worsened during pregnancy, it usually settles back to normal
? You should stop smoking (for help quitting, call the Quitline on
Keep taking all your asthma medications.
within about 3 months after the baby is born.
13 78 48).
Have regular check-ups for your asthma.
? Your asthma may become worse while you are pregnant, so
Avoid things that trigger your asthma or worsen allergies.
If you have asthma and allergies in your family, there is a risk
see your doctor and make sure it is well controlled before you
Keep an eye on your symptoms and tell your doctor if
your baby will have asthma too. The best way you can help to
your asthma becomes worse.
reduce this risk is to avoid tobacco smoke (e.g. ban smoking in
Work with your GP to keep your Asthma Action Plan up to
your car and home). Breastfeeding is best for babies, and might
date, and follow it closely.
also help prevent asthma.