Q: I have asthma and allergies. Is there anything special I should know about before trying to get pregnant?
A: About 4 to 8 percent of pregnant women suffer from asthma, which makes it a fairly common concern for moms-to-be. For some women, pregnancy can exacerbate asthma symptoms (especially as the baby grows and crowds their lungs), but others with milder cases may notice that their asthma symptoms actually subside while they're expecting. Experts agree that you should be under the care of an asthma specialist in addition to your prenatal healthcare provider, if you're not already.
Since your unborn baby will rely on your lungs for oxygen in the womb, getting your asthma in check before you become pregnant and during pregnancy is essential. Uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy is associated with complications like preeclampsia, preterm labor, and low birth weight. Managing your asthma may require that you continue using medication -- and the most common asthma medications (like albuterol, prednisone, theophylline, and montelukast) may be prescribed in some cases during pregnancy. Although it's natural to have concerns about the effect your medications can have on your baby, it's important to remember that the benefits from having your asthma in check usually outweigh the risks.
Allergies may get better or worse or remain the same while you're pregnant. Whenever possible, it's best to avoid triggers by keeping windows shut and not spending tons of time outside if you're allergic to seasonal triggers like pollen or ragweed. Take off your shoes indoors to avoid tracking allergens throughout your home. Dusting and vacuuming regularly helps too.
Some pregnant allergy sufferers swear by nasal saline to soothe congestion. Plenty of over-the-counter and prescription medications are considered safe too, but always get your doctor's approval for any meds you take while pregnant. The jury's still out on whether allergy shots are safe during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of continuing this type of treatment.