Hormonal changes and additional pressure on the diaphragm during pregnancy can worsen asthma symptoms. Managing your asthma during pregnancy can help prevent serious complications.

person using an asthma inhaler during pregnancyShare on Pinterest
AnnaStills/Getty Images

It’s incredibly important to keep your asthma managed when pregnant. Asthma attacks during pregnancy can have serious consequences for you and your developing baby.

The signs and treatments for asthma during pregnancy are very similar to when you’re not pregnant. Still, if you’re pregnant, your healthcare team will need to weigh the pros and cons when determining which medications and treatments are most appropriate for you.

Learn more about asthma.

During pregnancy, you may find that your asthma improves, stays the same, or gets worse. For approximately one-third of people, asthma will worsen during pregnancy as a result of hormonal stress and extra pressure on the diaphragm.

People with more severe asthma symptoms are more likely to have worsened symptoms during pregnancy. But even people with mild asthma may have more symptoms.

If you had asthma symptoms in previous pregnancies, you’ll likely have similar symptoms in future pregnancies.

Changes in hormone levels and increased stress may cause some people to have more severe asthma during pregnancy. Plus, the pressure on the diaphragm from the growing placenta can also contribute to asthmatic breathing difficulties.

Asthma is most likely to worsen between weeks 24 and 36 of pregnancy. If your asthma becomes worse during pregnancy, it will typically return to more typical levels within a few months of delivery.

Asthma symptoms in pregnancy are the same as when you’re not pregnant. They can include:

  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chest tightness or pain
  • coughing
  • trouble sleeping at night (related to other asthma symptoms)

Asthma symptoms may be triggered by:

  • infections
  • exercise
  • allergens like dust, mold, and pollen
  • cold air

Asthma attacks during pregnancy could lead to less oxygen for the baby. This may affect the baby’s growth and development.

Uncontrolled asthma may also increase your chances of premature birth or stillbirth.

Asthma attacks are also associated with a greater likelihood of high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

It’s important to manage your asthma during pregnancy to keep you and your baby safe. This might include using asthma medications, avoiding known asthma triggers, and refraining from smoking.

If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, reach out to a doctor. They can help you figure out any modifications to your current treatment plan or if your current medications are necessary.

While pregnant, your healthcare team will work with you to monitor your risks of asthma attacks and determine if more adjustments to your asthma treatment plan are needed.

If your asthma is well controlled during pregnancy, it’s not likely to have any negative effects on your baby.

However, if your asthma is poorly managed, chances of the following increase:

  • low birth weight
  • premature birth
  • stillbirth

Can you develop asthma during pregnancy?

There is no evidence that pregnancy can cause asthma to suddenly develop. However, people with extremely mild asthma may not be aware that they have asthma until pregnancy, when their symptoms become exacerbated or worse.

Should I stop taking asthma medications when I learn that I’m pregnant?

It’s important to manage your asthma during pregnancy, and this may mean taking asthma medications.

Reach out to a healthcare professional as soon as possible if you’re pregnant and have asthma. They can help figure out if you need to make any changes to your current asthma medications and treatment plan.

Will my asthma change how I need to give birth?

When asthma is well managed, your healthcare team should be able to monitor the baby during labor as usual. But your doctor may take your asthma into consideration when determining which medications are appropriate during labor and delivery.

Up to 90% of pregnant people who have asthma will need to manage their asthma. You may need to change your asthma treatment plan to avoid acute asthma attacks during labor and delivery.

Many people may experience exacerbated asthma during pregnancy as a result of the changes in their bodies.

If you are pregnant and have asthma, it’s important to work with your doctors to find the best treatment plan. Keeping your asthma well-managed can help you avoid serious complications for both you and your baby.