BJOG release: Women with asthma may face increased risks in pregnancy, research suggests

Pregnant women with asthma are at a significantly increased risk of low birth weight, preterm delivery, small size for gestational age and pre-eclampsia, suggests new research published today in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

The researchers from Australia and the US conducted the meta-analysis looking at 40 different papers from 1975-2009.

The presence of asthma was associated with a significantly increased risk for low birth weight. The mean birth weight of infants of mothers with asthma was 93 grams lower than that of infants of women without asthma. Low birth weight was defined as less than 2500 grams.

In addition, there was a significantly increased risk of small size for gestational age babies and preterm delivery with maternal asthma.

Maternal asthma significantly increases the risk of pre-eclampsia by at least 50% when compared to women without asthma.

The meta-analysis also showed that the risk of preterm labour and delivery is greatly reduced to a non-significant level when active asthma management was provided to women.

The paper looked at the possibility that asthma medications may have a direct adverse effect on the mother or fetus during pregnancy. However, the evidence to date suggests that commonly used asthma medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and inhaled short-acting beta agonists, do not increase perinatal risk, and that ICS treatment may actually be protective against outcomes such as low birth weight.

The researchers recommend that women with asthma should be monitored at least monthly during their pregnancy.

Professor Peter Gibson, Centre for Asthma and Respiratory Diseases, University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, NSW, Australia and co-author on the paper said:

“Asthma is a common chronic disease among pregnant women, and the extent of the risks for both the mother and baby during the perinatal period make this a significant health issue.

“These results have implications for the antenatal care of pregnant women with asthma. Some of the reported complications may be minimised by effective asthma management strategies and it is important that this group of women and her developing baby are monitored regularly.”

Professor Khalid Khan, BJOG Scientific Editor, added:

“Asthma can complicate pregnancy however this new research is important as it highlights the need for effective management of the condition and the need for increased monitoring.

“Controlling the condition should enable a woman to maintain a healthy pregnancy with little risk to her or the baby.”


For further information please contact Naomi Weston on 020 7772 6357 or
To contact Professor Gibson, please email:

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology is owned by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) but is editorially independent and published monthly by Wiley-Blackwell. The journal features original, peer-reviewed, high-quality medical research in all areas of obstetrics and gynaecology worldwide. Please quote ‘BJOG' or ‘BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology' when referring to the journal and include the website: as a hidden link online.

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Murphy V, Namazy J, Powell H, Schatz M, Chambers C, Attia J, Gibson P. A meta-analysis of adverse perinatal outcomes in women with asthma. BJOG 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2011.03055.x.

Date published: 13/07/2011
Published by: Naomi Weston
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