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Merck Manual

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Asthma During Pregnancy


Lara A. Friel

, MD, PhD, University of Texas Health Medical School at Houston, McGovern Medical School

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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The effect of pregnancy on asthma varies. Worsening of the disease is slightly more common than improvement, but most pregnant women do not have severe asthma attacks.

(See also Asthma.)

The effect of asthma on pregnancy also varies. But if asthma is severe and poorly controlled, it increases the risk of having the following:


  • Inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids

Because asthma can change during pregnancy, doctors may ask women with asthma to use a peak flow meter to monitor their breathing more often. Pregnant women with asthma should see their doctor regularly so that treatment can be adjusted as needed. Maintaining good control of asthma is important. Inadequate treatment can result in serious problems.

Inhaled bronchodilators (such as albuterol) and inhaled corticosteroids (such as budesonide) can be used during pregnancy. When inhaled, the drugs affect mainly the lungs and are less likely to affect the whole body and the fetus than when they are taken by mouth. Theophylline (taken by mouth) is not usually used during pregnancy.

Corticosteroids taken by mouth are used only when other treatments are ineffective. If asthma suddenly worsens, women are given a corticosteroid intravenously for 24 to 48 hours, then by mouth.

Being vaccinated against the influenza (flu) virus during the flu season is particularly important for pregnant women with asthma.

Did You Know...

  • Getting the flu vaccine during flu season is very important for pregnant women with asthma.

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