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Asthma Health Center

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Moms: Controlling Asthma Helps Baby

Asthma Flares During Pregnancy Can Lead to Low Birth Weight
WebMD Health News

Nov. 9, 2005 -- Controlling asthma during pregnancy may be good for moms and babies, researchers write in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

"Asthma is the most common chronic illness that complicates pregnancy," write Vanessa Murphy, PhD, and colleagues.

Murphy works in the department of respiratory and sleep medicine at Australia's University of Newcastle. Her study makes these points:

  • Women with asthma often have severe asthma flares during pregnancy, especially those with severe asthma.
  • Women with severe asthma flares during pregnancy had associated birth problems including low birth weight for baby boys.

Tracking Asthma Through Pregnancy

Murphy's study included 146 pregnant women with asthma. Their asthma was classified as mild (63 women), moderate (34 women), or severe (49 women).

More than half of the women had worsening of their asthma during pregnancy (55%).

Severe worsening involved being admitted to a hospital, going to an emergency room, making an unscheduled doctor visit, or taking steroids for asthma.

Severe worsening of symptoms was seen in 65% of women with severe asthma, 47% of those with moderate asthma, and 8% of those with mild asthma.

Consequences for the Baby?

Male newborns were more likely to be born at low birth weight if their mothers had had a severe asthma flare during pregnancy compared with male newborns whose mother did not have a severe flare, the researchers report.

Those baby boys were born an average of 300 grams lighter than boys born to women who didn't have severe asthma problems during pregnancy.

"This is greater than the effect of maternal smoking during pregnancy," write the researchers.

Asthma Causes Unclear

No one knows what caused those problems. Asthma may not have been responsible.

Women who had severe asthma problems while pregnant tended to gain less weight during pregnancy. That could reflect poor maternal nutrition and compromised fetal growth, the researchers write.

They urge patients to take care of asthma all the time, including during pregnancy.

"Improvements in asthma management to prevent severe exacerbations may lead to a better outcome for both mother and baby," write Murphy and colleagues.

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