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Physiology and clinical course of asthma in pregnancy

Steven E Weinberger, MD
Michael Schatz, MD, MS
Section Editors
Peter J Barnes, DM, DSc, FRCP, FRS
Charles J Lockwood, MD, MHCM
Deputy Editor
Helen Hollingsworth, MD


Asthma is the most common pulmonary disease encountered during pregnancy, occurring in 3 to 8 percent of pregnant women [1-8]. Two questions about the interaction of asthma and pregnancy are raised by clinicians and patients alike:

How does pregnancy affect asthma?

How does asthma affect the outcomes of pregnancy?

The pathophysiology of asthma during pregnancy and the interrelationships of these two conditions will be reviewed here. The management of gestational asthma, the evaluation of dyspnea in pregnancy, and the changes in the respiratory system during pregnancy are discussed separately. (See "Management of asthma during pregnancy" and "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Physiologic respiratory changes and dyspnea".)


A review of maternal respiratory physiology during pregnancy is helpful in understanding the interrelationships between pregnancy and asthma. More detailed discussions of the normal physiologic changes in the cardiopulmonary system during pregnancy are presented separately. This review will emphasize those changes that directly impact or are influenced by co-existent asthma. (See "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Physiologic respiratory changes and dyspnea" and "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Cardiovascular and hemodynamic changes" and "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Physiologic respiratory changes and dyspnea", section on 'Respiratory changes'.)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 08, 2016.
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