Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery for Women With Asthma

Anyone who has ever heard or read anything about labor knows one thing: It often relies on breathing techniques to help the mom-to-be get through delivery. It’s no wonder that women with asthma may fear they face a greater risk during labor than women who don’t have breathing problems.

The good news? Only about 10 percent to 20 percent of women with asthma will have increased symptoms during labor and delivery. Most women with mild asthma do not show any increase in symptoms during labor. Women who have severe asthma are more likely to have worsening of symptoms.

Your doctor will watch you and your baby closely for any problems. Should you have a flare-up, your doctor will be ready to manage, usually with medications, your symptoms safely.

Careful monitoring

Work closely with your health care team during your pregnancy to make sure your asthma is under the best possible control. This will give you the best chance of having a safe and healthy delivery.

If your asthma has not been under good control, your doctor may tell you to get to the hospital sooner when labor starts. When admitted, you may be given breathing tests to check air flow. Hospital staff will monitor you and your baby closely.

You’ll be treated for any asthma symptoms that start, and your air flow will be measured again. A doctor may suggest giving you fluids through your veins if you are dehydrated. Steroids may also be needed.

Some research has shown that cesarean (C-section) deliveries may be needed more often in women with asthma.

What about medications?

Pregnant women with asthma should discuss their labor and delivery plans with their doctor. Asthma may affect the choice of medications used during labor, delivery and the postpartum period.

In addition:

Most asthma medications can be safely continued during labor and after the birth. Do not stop (or begin) any medicines unless told to do so by your doctor.

Acute asthma attacks that occur during labor can be treated.

Don’t hesitate to ask for a pain killer. They are safe to use.

Some women, including those with asthma, may be treated with the drug oxytocin (Pitocin). This is used to induce labor and to control bleeding after delivery.

If a C-section is needed, epidural anesthesia is often preferred. Your medical team will decide what is safest for you and your baby.

Labor and delivery can be an exciting, but scary, time for any woman. Rest assured that even women with asthma usually have safe and healthy birthing experiences.