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Mother's Asthma During Pregnancy May Raise Child's Health Risks

Large study of Danish women followed their children up to age 6
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The result: Maternal asthma was associated with a higher risk for developing a wide array of childhood diseases among newborns. However, while the study found this association, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

So what are concerned mothers to do?

"There are different types, causes and treatments of asthma," Meinlschmidt said, "so mothers should discuss individual strategies to reduce their asthma risk with their GPs or other health care providers, considering benefits and risks of asthma treatment for mother and offspring."

Dr. Alan Baptist, an assistant professor and director of the University of Michigan's asthma program in Ann Arbor, Mich., said that he was "not completely surprised" by the study findings.

"It's mostly in line with what we currently feel, which is that uncontrolled asthma can have multiple deleterious effects on the fetus and infant. But it's very important that this research was done so we can clarify the impact as children grow," Baptist said.

"And the bottom line," he continued, "is that it's very important that asthma is kept under very good control during pregnancy. Because, in fact, for about one-third of women with asthma, their asthma actually worsens with pregnancy."

Baptist, who was not involved with the new study, pointed out that there is a balancing act between avoiding asthma effects in the mother and protecting the unborn child.

"You always want to avoid meds when possible while pregnant because of the potential to affect the fetus," he acknowledged. "But what has been shown over and over again is that it's far worse to have uncontrolled asthma than any potential drug side effects," Baptist said.

"I would also emphasize the importance of regular follow-up care for women with asthma," he said. "That means a visit to your ob/gyn or an asthma specialist at a minimum of once a month."

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