Intervention lowers asthma risks for pregnant women

"Poorly controlled asthma during pregnancy is hazardous for the health of the mother and the baby and has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and pre-eclampsia," says Angelina Lim. (Credit: Meg/Flickr)

Pregnant women with asthma could better manage their condition if additional integrated care involving education and monitoring was introduced in hospitals.

These women expose themselves and their unborn babies to unnecessary risks when they stop taking asthma medication without consulting a doctor, a new study shows.

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“With one in eight pregnant women suffering from asthma, this research is telling us we need to improve management during pregnancy by finding new strategies to improve education and awareness,” says lead investigator Angelina Lim of the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety at Monash University. “Poorly controlled asthma during pregnancy is hazardous for the health of the mother and the baby and has been associated with an increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and pre-eclampsia.

“Proper asthma management among pregnant women should be regarded as a leading priority in antenatal care. This is a simple intervention that could be easily implemented in antenatal settings with minimal additional resources.”

Most women are unaware of the risks

Women in the early stages of pregnancy and who had used asthma medications in the previous year received a pharmacist-led monthly intervention that provided asthma education, monitoring, feedback, and follow-up in the antenatal clinics of two major Australian maternity hospitals—the Royal Women’s Hospital and Mercy Hospital for Women.

After six months of care, results demonstrated that the women receiving the intervention had clinically and statistically better control of their asthma, when compared to a control group of pregnant women not receiving the intervention. In the intervention group, no asthma-related oral steroid use, hospital admissions, emergency visits, or days off work were reported during the trial. The findings are detailed in a study published in the journal Chest.

The research follows earlier work by the researchers published in the Journal of Asthma, which found that pregnant women are exposing themselves and their unborn babies to unnecessary risk by stopping their asthma medication without consulting their doctors. A lack of confidence and/or knowledge among healthcare professionals in managing deteriorating asthma in pregnancy has also been found.

In the latest trial, 70 percent of the participants revealed they were unaware of the risks of poorly controlled asthma and 32 percent reported ceasing or reducing their medications since becoming pregnant.

The researchers say larger studies are needed to demonstrate if the improvements in asthma control led to improved maternal and perinatal outcomes.

Source: Monash University