Risky business: Asthma during pregnancy

Clinical Brief – August 3rd

The Brief

A group of doctors in Denmark found that more often than not, kids got early-onset asthma if their mothers were having uncontrolled asthma during pregnancy.

The peculiar thing is, the risk of asthma goes up if the mother’s asthma was more severe and/or uncontrolled, but the study couldn’t show a causal relationship.

Tell me more

The Danes are known for their universal health care system. A cool little perk of this is the amount of patient data they can run studies with.

Doctors from the Aarhus University in Denmark did just that when they looked through the records of about 7,000 kids who were born to mothers with active asthma during pregnancy.

More kids had early-onset persistent asthma if their mothers had uncontrolled or moderate/severe asthma during pregnancy, compared to kids born to mothers who had mild controlled asthma.

For instance, 19% more kids had early-onset persistent asthma if their mothers had mild uncontrolled vs mild controlled asthma. This went up to 33% if their mothers had moderate/severe controlled asthma; 37% if their mothers had moderate/severe uncontrolled asthma. You see where this is going.

But this was an observation. That is to say, this study doesn’t prove that a mother’s asthma during pregnancy can cause asthma in the child.

What does it mean?

This study tells us that if a woman is having trouble keeping her asthma under control during pregnancy for whatever reason, the chances of her child getting asthma early on in life may go up.

There’s nothing to stop this, but knowing these stats can help us plan accordingly, such as saving up a bit more for health care costs or talking to the doctor earlier on to learn more about childhood asthma.

I should also mention that the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says that asthma affects about 8% of women in their childbearing years. They also list the risks of uncontrolled asthma to both the mother and child (scary as heck so exercise caution before you click).

“Asthma can be controlled by careful medical management and avoidance of known triggers, so asthma need not be a reason for avoiding pregnancy. Most measures used to control asthma are not harmful to the developing fetus and do not appear to contribute to either miscarriage or birth defects.” 


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