Inhaled Steroids and Pregnancy

Asthma is becoming more and more common at all ages, now affecting more than 20 million Americans (including more than 5 million children). What do we know about managing asthma in pregnancy? Inhaled steroids are one of the standard treatments for moderate asthma in adults and children, even though we know that they can slow growth slightly in children. These same medicines are often recommended to control asthma in expecting mothers.

How safe is this for the unborn baby? Although they are considered safe, far too little has been known about this important issue. Now, investigators from Kaiser Permanente have followed almost 500 pregnant asthmatic women who were being treated with inhaled steroids. They found no difference from the general population in the health of their babies, according to their study published in the March 2004 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. In particular, there was no difference found in fetal growth, birth weight, preterm deliveries, or birth defects. This is good news. Managing asthma is important, especially during pregnancy. It.s wise to learn to recognize and avoid unnecessary asthma triggers. Avoiding any unnecessary medicines during pregnancy is also wise. But if asthma symptoms persist, medications may be important to keep the inflammation of the airways under control. In this case, the benefits of inhaled steroids appear to outweigh the risks for both the mother and the baby.

Published on: March 10, 2004
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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