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New treatment guidelines for pregnant women with asthma

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) is issuing the first new guidelines in more than a decade for managing asthma during pregnancy. The report reflects new medications that have emerged and updates treatment recommendations for pregnant women with asthma based on a systematic review of data on the safety of asthma medications during pregnancy. An executive summary ("Quick Reference") of the guidelines is published in the January issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Poorly controlled asthma can lead to serious medical problems for pregnant women and their fetuses. The guidelines emphasize that controlling asthma during pregnancy is important for the health and well-being of the mother as well as for the healthy development of the fetus. A stepwise approach to asthma care similar to that used in the NAEPP general asthma treatment guidelines for children and nonpregnant adults is recommended. Under this approach, medication is stepped up in intensity if needed, and stepped down when possible, depending on asthma severity. Because asthma severity changes during pregnancy for most women, the guidelines also recommend that clinicians who provide obstetric care monitor asthma severity during prenatal visits of their patients who have asthma.

"The guidelines review the evidence on asthma medications used by pregnant patients," said Barbara Alving, M.D., acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), which administers the NAEPP. "The evidence is reassuring, and suggests that it is safer to take medications than to have asthma exacerbations. The guidelines should be a useful tool for physicians to develop optimal asthma management plans for pregnant women."

"Simply put, when a pregnant patient has trouble breathing, her fetus also has trouble getting the oxygen it needs," added William W. Busse, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, an
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
nhlbi_news@nhlbi.nih.gov
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
11-Jan-2005


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