What should I do to prepare for pregnancy?

If you have asthma, schedule a preconception appointment with the health care provider who'll be handling your pregnancy, as well as your family doctor, allergist, pulmonologist or other members of your health care team. They'll evaluate how well you're managing your asthma and consider any treatment changes you might need to make before pregnancy begins. Because asthma symptoms might increase during pregnancy, your health care team will closely monitor your condition.

What can I do to prevent complications?

Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. For example:

  • Keep your prenatal appointments. Visit your health care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy. Share any questions or concerns you might have. Staying informed can help ease anxiety, which can aggravate asthma.
  • Take your medication as prescribed. If you have concerns about the medications you're taking, consult your health care provider.
  • Avoid and control triggers. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke and other potential irritants, such as mold, pollen, dust and animal dander. If physical activity is an asthma trigger for you, your health care provider might be able to recommend treatments to reduce your symptoms.
  • Control gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD — a chronic digestive disease that causes acid reflux and heartburn — can worsen asthma symptoms. If you develop GERD, reduce symptoms by elevating the head of your bed, eating smaller meals, waiting at least three hours after eating before lying down and avoiding foods that seem to trigger heartburn.
  • Know what's off-limits. If you smoke, ask your health care provider to help you quit. Smoking can worsen asthma, and smoking during pregnancy can cause health problems for you and your baby.
  • Recognize warning signs. Make sure you know the early signs and symptoms that your asthma is getting worse, such as coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath or wheezing. Talk to your health care provider, family doctor or asthma specialist about home treatments and when to seek medical help.

What about labor and delivery?

Most women don't experience major asthma symptoms during labor and delivery. Still, continuous fetal monitoring during labor and delivery is recommended for all women who have asthma.

If you're taking asthma medication, continue doing so during labor and delivery.

Will I be able to breast-feed my baby?

Breast-feeding is encouraged for women who have asthma — even if you take medication.

Will my baby have asthma?

A number of factors are thought to increase a person's chances of developing asthma, including having a blood relative — such as a parent or sibling — who has asthma and having a mother who smoked while pregnant. Be sure to talk to your baby's doctor about any concerns you might have about your baby's health.

Asthma doesn't have to cause health problems for you or your baby during pregnancy. Work with your health care provider to understand how to manage your symptoms and promote a healthy pregnancy.

Apr. 27, 2012 See more In-depth