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How to manage asthma during pregnancy

"If you don’t control your asthma, you may be at risk for a serious health problem", said Executive Physiotherapist Suryalakshmi Paleri.

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 24, 2021 6:08:52 pm
Asthma-pregnancy-pexelsRead on to know more about managing asthma during pregnancy. (Source: Pexels)

By Suryalakshmi Paleri

Asthma affects four to eight out of 100 pregnant women. If you keep your asthma under control, it probably won’t cause any problems during pregnancy. Pregnancy can also make you feel short of breath, but it’s generally a good idea to try to move your body whenever possible. The cardio-respiratory system is affected during pregnancy because of the anatomic and physiologic variations that occur in the body. Because of the increased mucous secretion the upper airway becomes congested, leading to nasal obstruction, and occasionally epistaxis. During the third trimester changes may occur in patients with pre-existing disease.

If you don’t control your asthma, you may be at risk for a serious health problem called preeclampsia, which is a condition that can happen after the 20th week or right after pregnancy. It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.

If you don’t control your asthma, your baby may not get enough oxygen. He may be at higher risk for health problems like:

* Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)

* Poor growth

* Low birth weight (less than 5½ pounds)

Babies who are born too small and too soon are more likely to have newborn health problems. They can have trouble breathing and lasting disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities and cerebral palsy.

Asthma symptoms often change during pregnancy. (Source: Pixabay)

Causes

One or more things can trigger your asthma. Some of the most common things that bring on asthma symptoms are:

Allergens: About 7 out of 10 people with asthma (70 percent) have allergies. An allergy is a reaction to something you touch, eat or breathe in that makes you sneeze, get a rash or have trouble breathing. Allergens are things that cause you to have allergy symptoms. Many also cause asthma symptoms. Common allergens are pollen, molds, animal dander (small flakes of dead skin), dust mites and cockroaches. Limit your contact with allergens. If you still have asthma symptoms, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you take an allergy medicine.

Irritants: Irritants are things in your environment that may hurt your lungs and trigger asthma symptoms, including air pollution, cigarette smoke and smoke from wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, cold air and strong smells, like paint or perfumes.

Infections: Infections like a cold, the flu or viral pneumonia, can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.

Exercise: Exercise can cause asthma symptoms in some people. If your asthma is under control, you probably can exercise without any problems. But if exercising during pregnancy sets off your asthma, talk to your doctor or physiotherapist.

Symptoms

At first, symptoms of COPD can be quite mild. You might mistake them for a cold. If you have asthma and are pregnant, you should be extra vigilant about your symptoms. Keep in mind that your symptoms may be worse than usual. You may have an attack that is more severe than you are used to. Don’t go by how your asthma has been in the past, go by your symptoms now. If you are having chest tightness or difficulty catching your breath, go to the nearest hospital emergency department. There you can be given oxygen and “rescue” medications that are safe for you and your baby. Do not plan to travel to remote areas with difficult access to health-care facilities.

Early symptoms include:

*Occasional shortness of breath, especially after exercise

*Mild but recurrent cough

*Needing to clear your throat often, especially first thing in the morning

*You might start making subtle changes, such as avoiding stairs and skipping physical activities.

Worsening symptoms:

Symptoms can get progressively worse and harder to ignore. As the lungs become more damaged, you may experience:

*Shortness of breath, after even mild forms of exercise like walking up a flight of stairs

*Wheezing, which is a type of higher-pitched noisy breathing, especially during exhalations

*Chest tightness

*Chronic or constant cough, with or without mucus ( especially at night or early in the morning)

*A need to clear mucus from your lungs every day

*Frequent colds, flu, or other respiratory infections

*Lack of energy

*In later stages of COPD, symptoms may also include:

*Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds

*Fatigue

*Swelling of the feet, ankles, or legs

*Weight loss

*Symptoms are likely to be much worse if you currently smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

As the disease progresses, you’re more susceptible to complications, such as:

*Respiratory infections, including common colds, flu, and pneumonia

*Heart problems

*High blood pressure in lung arteries (pulmonary hypertension)

*Lung cancer

*Depression and anxiety

Can asthma symptoms change during pregnancy?

Yes, asthma symptoms often change during pregnancy. Sometimes they get better and sometimes they get worse. We don’t really understand what causes these changes. Getting the flu can set off serious asthma symptoms. Heartburn also can make your symptoms worse. Here’s what you can do to help with heartburn symptoms:

*Sleep with your head up on a pillow (elevated).

*Eat smaller meals several times a day.

*Don’t eat within 2 hours of bedtime.

*Check with your doctor regarding what medications can be taken to keep it in control.

*Environmental changes that help maintaining or preventing COPD

*Maintaining a smoke-free home is one of the most important ways you can decrease your and your family’s chances of developing COPD or worsening symptoms. There are other things you can do around your home to improve air quality, as well.

*Avoid harsh chemical cleaners, sprays, powders.

*Keep your home dust-free and avoid dusty areas as much as possible.

*Use an air purifier.

*Avoid direct contact with sick people.

*Burning wax/ scented candles can also be irritating hence can also replace it with soy candles with essential oils , also check with your doctor whether they’re safe.

(The writer is Executive Physiotherapist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Bengaluru – Malleshwaram.)

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