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Maternal asthma is associated with lower birth weight

Asthma in pregnancy is associated with complications for both the mother-to-be and the child, concludes a new study. Pregnant women with asthma are more likely to have high blood pressure, pre-birth bleeding, amniotic membrane-related disorders, gestational diabetes, and cesarean sections than women without asthma. In addition, infants born to women with asthma have lower birth weights and are smaller in size for their gestational ages than infants born to mothers who do not have asthma.

Rachel Enriquez, R.N., Ph.D., from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and colleagues looked at 140,299 pregnancies of black and white women enrolled in Tennessee's Medicaid program from 1995 to 2003. Of the 6.5 percent (9,154) women who had asthma, nearly one-fourth visited the emergency room or were hospitalized because of their asthma (40 percent of black women and 23 percent of white women.)

Pregnant women with asthma typically delivered babies that weighed 1.3 ounces less (2 ounces less for those who visited the emergency room) than babies born to women who did not have asthma. Most of the women (77 percent) did not use daily asthma controller medications. Instead, 60 percent of them relied on quick-relief medications, and 26 percent used them excessively.

These results suggest that controller medication is either not prescribed for or not refilled by pregnant women with asthma, either due to concern they may harm their unborn child or belief that the medication does not work. The authors found that preterm birth, birth defects, and post-delivery hemorrhage were not associated with maternal asthma.

This study was funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10384).

See "Effect of maternal asthma and asthma control on pregnancy and perinatal outcomes," by Dr. Enriquez, Marie R. Griffin, M.D., M.P.H., Kecia N. Carroll, M.D., and others in the September 2007 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 120(3), pp. 625-630.

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