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Asthma affects about 10 percent of pregnant women, making it the most common chronic condition in pregnancy, the researchers said.
Overall, the severity of asthma during pregnancy remains unchanged, worsens or improves in equal proportions, according to the review. But asthma control deteriorated in 60 percent of women with severe asthma, compared with 10 percent of those with mild asthma.
All pregnant women with asthma need to be closely monitored, however, regardless of asthma severity, according to the review, which was published recently in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist journal.
Guidelines recommend that the management and treatment of asthma in pregnant women should be generally the same as for non-pregnant women and men, the authors said. They noted that poor asthma control during pregnancy can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of cesarean delivery and low birth weight.
Some women and health-care providers have concerns about potential harmful side effects that asthma drugs can have on mothers and their babies, but the review concluded that it is still safer for women to use asthma drugs during pregnancy to prevent uncontrolled asthma.
"Asthma is a widespread condition and poor management during pregnancy can lead to adverse maternal and fetal outcomes," review co-author Chris Brightling, a professor of respiratory medicine at the University Hospitals of Leicester in England, said in a journal news release.
"Good asthma management to maintain tight control is vital, and standard therapy may be safely used in pregnancy to achieve this along with close surveillance from midwives, obstetricians and, for women with severe asthma, a respiratory physician," Brightling said.
Education is key for anyone, especially pregnant women, to manage his or her asthma, journal editor-in-chief Jason Waugh said in the news release. This means understanding the condition and its treatment, avoiding triggers, and adhering to medication guidelines, he said.
"Any women who have concerns about their asthma management during pregnancy should contact their [general practitioner] or midwife for further advice," Brightling said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, news release, September 2013