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Women Advised to Control Their Asthma While Pregnant

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommended that pregnant women keep their asthma under control. If the mother cannot breathe properly, then the unborn baby cannot do either.

Asthma drugs may affect the developing baby; but the complications from the motherís asthma poses more serious problems to the baby than threat from asthma drugs.

Asthma is associated with increased risk of infant death, preeclampsia -- a serious condition marked by high blood pressure -- premature birth, and low birth weight.

"Simply put, when a pregnant patient has trouble breathing, her fetus also has trouble getting the oxygen it needs," said Dr. William Busse of the University of Wisconsin Medical School, who chaired the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program.

Asthma affects more 20 million Americans and is one of the most common potentially serious medical conditions to complicate pregnancy. The expert panel directed the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimated that asthma affects up to 8 percent of pregnant women. 

Pregnant women may be afraid to take drugs to control their condition worrying about their unborn baby. And in 30 percent of women who have mild asthma at the beginning of their pregnancy, the asthma worsens with time. The expert panel recommended that these women take albuterol, an inhaled drug, for quick relief.

Women with asthma symptoms at least two days a week or two nights a month have persistent asthma and need daily medication. Inhaled corticosteroids, notably budesonide, are the preferred drugs, in this case.

Doses should be increased if the drugs do not control symptoms, or other classes of drugs can be added. Oral corticosteroids may be needed for the most severe cases, despite confusing information on their safety.

The guidelines were published in the January, 2005 issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology. 

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