Asthma & Lung Problems in Pregnancy

How common are lung diseases such as asthma in pregnancy?

Asthma is the most common lung disorder in pregnancy (5% of pregnant women).  Other lung problems are uncommon and include sarcoidosis, pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis.

What can happen to lung problems like asthma in pregnancy?

For women with asthma, 1/3 will improve, 1/3 will remain stable and 1/3 will worsen by being pregnant.

You should have a lung function test (spirometry) early in pregnancy to determine the severity of your asthma.  You should also continue your normal asthma medications (including steroids where necessary).  Asthma is not usually associated with pregnancy complications, unless it is severe or poorly controlled.  In fact, the most common problem I see is women stopping their asthma medications unnecessarily.  Please don’t ever stop an asthma medication without speaking to a doctor first.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a complex disease that affects multiple organs, not just the lungs.  Because it is an inherited disease, a mother with CF also has a chance of passing it on to her baby.

As CF treatment has improved, many women with CF are becoming pregnant.  There are multiple risks for both mother and baby, including medication safety, genetic testing, changes in the woman’s heart and lung function, and planning a safe birth.  The outcome of the pregnancy will depend on the mother’s respiratory and nutritional status.

Because CF is such a complex condition, pregnant women with CF should be cared for by an experienced Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist, rather than a general obstetrician.  Pre-pregnancy counselling is also strongly recommended.

Other lung conditions, such as pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis, are rare.  The advice for women with these conditions is similar to CF.  Pre-pregnancy counselling is extremely important, and you should see a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist for your pregnancy.

Have you treated patients like me before?

Yes. I am very experienced in managing asthma in pregnancy; I am familiar with pulmonary function testing in pregnant women and can advise you on medication safety for your baby.

I have also looked after women with cystic fibrosis and other serious respiratory diseases during pregnancy.  I’m originally from Ireland, which has the highest incidence of CF in the world.  During my time in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine unit of the National Maternity Hospital we looked after quite a number of pregnant CF patients.

As always, this information is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please discuss any medical issues with your own doctor. Read our full medical disclaimer here.