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Michael P. Carson, M.D., is an Obstetric Internist and Director of Obstetric Medicine for the Comprehensive Care Group in New Brunswick, NJ, as well as Chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at St. Peter's University Hospital. He is also an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at UMDNJ's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Dr. Carson is board certified in internal medicine and graduated from Temple University School of Medicine. His training in Internal Medicine and his fellowship in Obstetric Medicine were both at Brown University School of Medicine. For more information on Dr. Carson, please visit http://tinyurl.com/michaelcarsonmd.

Asthma During Pregnancy

What is Asthma?

When you have asthma, the air-carrying tubes of your lungs are constricted by tightened muscles or mucous, leading to shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing. Although asthma is a chronic disease, acute "attacks" usually occur when you're exposed to allergens, chemicals, infections, or cold or dry air. The disease varies in severity and can usually be controlled by medication.

What Happens to Asthma During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy's effect on asthma varies. When you get pregnant, your asthma may improve, stay the same, or, for about a third of women, become worse. The more severe the disease before pregnancy, the more likely it will get worse. If your asthma became worse in previous pregnancies, it's likely to worsen in future pregnancies as well.

Why is it important to control asthma during pregnancy?

An acute asthma attack can limit the amount of oxygen that gets into the blood. Since adequate oxygen is necessary for normal fetal growth and development, theoretically the fetus can be harmed if an asthma attack reduces the oxygen content of the blood. For most women, however, if their asthma is controlled with medications during pregnancy, there appears to be no increased risk to the fetus.

Uncontrolled asthma can also lead to problems for the baby including:

  • slower growth while in the uterus
  • early labor
  • low birth weight

Medication Management

If you have asthma and become pregnant you should not stop any medications without first talking to a doctor. The inhaled medications are all safe during pregnancy and an acute asthma attack may not be. You must balance your concerns about medication use during pregnancy against the risk of uncontrolled asthma. The only way to do this is by talking with a physician who knows how to take care of asthma during pregnancy and can focus on this very special group of patients.

The Plan...

The best way to manage asthma during pregnancy is prevention. Proper use of inhalers, peak flow monitoring, and close communication with your obstetrician and obstetric internist will give you and your baby the best chance for an uncomplicated pregnancy.

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Created: 1/10/2001  -  Michael P. Carson, M.D.

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