Investigating Asthma During Pregnancy

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Asthmatic pregnant women may see higher risks of health issues in their children

August 5, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

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(dailyRx News) Pregnant women should always let their doctor know about health issues they might have. Often, these issues will not change their healthcare plan. Other times, it may mean more careful monitoring.

A recent study found that the children of women who had asthma while pregnant had a slightly increased risk of some health conditions.

All of the increased risks were small, and the researchers could not determine whether the asthma actually played a part in causing any of the problems.

However, knowing about the small increased risks can help a doctor monitor asthmatic pregnant women more closely to ensure the best care for her and her baby.

"Attend all prenatal appointments."

This study, led by Marion Tegethoff, PhD, of the Division of Clinical Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Basel in Switzerland, looked at the effects of having asthma while pregnant.

The researchers studied 66,712 Danish pregnant women who gave birth to single children between 1996 and 2002. They tracked the women's children for an average of six years.

Of these women, 4,145 (6.2 percent) had asthma during their pregnancy.

The researchers compared the health of the children born to asthmatic pregnant women to the health of children whose mothers did not have asthma.

The researchers found that children of the asthmatic women were at a slightly increased risk for a variety of health concerns.

The amount of the increased risk was small for all the conditions that were linked to a mother's asthma, and many of the conditions were not common in any child.

These children were 1.3 times more likely to contract an infectious or parasitic disease or to have an ear condition, compared to the children of the women without asthma.

Children of asthmatic mothers were about 1.4 times more likely to have a disease of the nervous system, the respiratory system or the skin, compared to children of mothers without asthma during pregnancy.

The researchers found some small links to endocrine and metabolic disorders, digestive diseases and birth defects, but these were not confirmed when they analyzed the data using a second method that accounted for other factors that might have contributed to these conditions.

The researchers found no evidence that a mother's asthma during pregnancy was linked to mental disorders, blood diseases, immune system disorders or diseases of the circulatory system, musculoskeletal system or urinary system in her children.

The researchers noted that knowing this information is valuable because it reveals the importance of carefully monitoring asthmatic pregnant women and their children during pregnancy.

The researchers emphasized that the increased risks were small and the study does not show that having asthma caused any of these conditions.

Therefore, they noted it's also important not to overstate the role of asthma during pregnancy.

The researchers came up with several reasons why asthma might play a part in these conditions, including restricted oxygen to the fetus if the mother has a low oxygen supply.

In addition, if a woman is not getting sufficient oxygen to her brain, it's possible this might influence the baby's growth and development, how well her placenta functions and how long her pregnancy lasts before giving birth.

However, it's also possible there are other factors that exist for asthmatic women that are related to both the asthma and the increased risks in her children, which would mean the asthma is not related to these problems by itself at all.

This study was published August 5 in the journal Pediatrics. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

The research was funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, the Pharmacy Foundation, the Egmont Foundation, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Augustinus Foundation, the Health Foundation, the German National Academic Foundation and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Review Date: 
August 4, 2013
Last Updated:
August 6, 2013