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Asthma and pregnancy

11-minute read

If you have an asthma attack and your symptoms don't improve following 2 doses of reliever medicine, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.

Key facts

  • At least 1 in 3 people with asthma who are pregnant find that their breathing gets worse during pregnancy.
  • Well-controlled asthma won't cause problems in pregnancy, but poorly-controlled asthma can cause problems for you and your baby.
  • Most asthma medicines are safe in pregnancy.
  • Keep taking your asthma medicines and see your doctor regularly when you are pregnant.
  • If you have an asthma attack during pregnancy, treat it straight away and seek medical help as soon as possible.

Will pregnancy affect my asthma?

Pregnancy affects asthma in different ways for different people. At least 1 in 3 people with asthma who are pregnant find that their asthma gets worse. However, about 1 in 3 people find that their asthma gets better during pregnancy.

If you have severe asthma, you are more likely to have flare-ups during pregnancy.

Hormonal and physical changes that naturally occur during pregnancy can make it feel harder to breathe. As your baby grows and your uterus gets bigger, there is less space for your lungs to expand. Many people who are pregnant feel short of breath at times, whether or not they have asthma.

When you're pregnant, you are more likely to catch viruses, such as colds or the flu, which can make your asthma worse.

Your asthma usually returns to normal a few months after your baby is born, even if it gets worse while you are pregnant.

Will having asthma affect my baby?

If your asthma is well-controlled, it won't cause problems for your baby.

Poorly-controlled asthma is dangerous for you and your baby. If you have trouble breathing and don't get enough oxygen, your baby won't get enough oxygen either. This can affect your baby's growth and development. It can also increase your risk of:

You might feel concerned about taking medicines during pregnancy — but remember, it's safer for you and your baby when your asthma is well-managed.

How do I manage my asthma during pregnancy?

It's important to know how to recognise whether your asthma is well-controlled.

Good management of asthma Partial or poor management of asthma
You are able to do all your usual activities. You are only partially able to do all your usual activities.
You have no asthma symptoms during the night or when waking up in the morning. You experience any symptoms during the night or on waking up.
You experience symptoms no more than 2 days per week. You experience symptoms more than 2 days per week.
You need your reliever medicine less than 2 days a week (not including when you do exercise). You need your reliever medicine more than 2 days a week (not including when you do exercise).

Routine management

It's very important to keep taking your usual asthma medicine/s while you are pregnant. Most asthma medicines are considered safe in pregnancy. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out more about your specific medicines.

Continue to follow your personalised asthma action plan. Visit your doctor regularly, so they can adjust your asthma action plan if your symptoms change.

Make sure to have a flu vaccine and a COVID-19 vaccine. People with asthma have a higher risk of severe infection from these viruses.

Asthma flare-ups

If you are having an asthma flare-up ('asthma attack'), it's important to treat it straight away. Take your medicines according to the instructions in your asthma action plan. See your doctor straight away or go to your local hospital emergency department.

If your symptoms do not improve after 2 doses of your reliever medicine, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. Don't wait for your symptoms to become severe.

You might need to take a short course of steroid tablets, such as prednisolone. This is safe in pregnancy.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor every 4 weeks during pregnancy to check that your asthma is under control.

If your breathing is getting worse during pregnancy, see your doctor as soon as possible. They can help you work out whether your symptoms are a normal part of pregnancy or related to your asthma.

Your asthma might be getting worse if:

  • your breathing makes it hard to do your usual activities
  • asthma symptoms wake you from sleep
  • you get asthma symptoms and need to take a reliever medicine more than twice a week

If you've had an asthma flare-up, see your doctor once you have recovered. They can adjust your asthma action plan to prevent further flare-ups.

Will having asthma affect how I give birth?

Having asthma does not usually affect how you will give birth.

Asthma symptoms during labour can generally be managed according to your asthma plan. Bring your asthma medicines with you to the hospital or birthing centre when you go into labour, as well as a copy of your asthma action plan.

Asthma attacks are rare during labour.

Can I breastfeed if I am taking asthma medicine?

You can safely breastfeed your baby while taking most asthma medicines. There is no need to wait between taking asthma medicine and breastfeeding your baby.

It's also okay to take a short course of steroid tablets while you're breastfeeding. You might be advised to wait 4 hours after taking the medicine before breastfeeding. If you have been prescribed a steroid tablet, check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Some asthma medicines, such as montelukast, may not be safe for babies. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out more about breastfeeding with your specific medicines.

Will my baby have asthma?

Asthma tends to run in families, so your baby is more likely to have asthma if you or other close family members do. However, there are things you can do to lower your baby's risk of developing asthma.

Being exposed to cigarette smoke while you are pregnant increases the chance that your baby will have asthma. If you smoke, it's very important to quit. Avoid being around other people who are smoking.

Breastfeeding can lower your baby's chance of developing asthma. The longer you breastfeed, the lower your baby's risk.

Who can I talk to for information and advice?

Your doctor, asthma specialist or midwife can answer your questions about pregnancy and asthma. They can also make sure that your asthma action plan is up to date.

Visit Asthma Australia or call 1800 278 462 to find out more about pregnancy and asthma.

Check out the Asthma in Pregnancy Toolkit for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, as well as culturally safe models of care during pregnancy.

If you prefer a language other than English, the National Asthma Council has information in other languages.

Similarly, the Royal Children's Hospital provides asthma fact sheets in multiple languages.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023

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