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Effects of Albuterol in Pregnancy

By Roxanne Maas ; Updated August 14, 2017

Asthma is an increasingly common problem among pregnant women. A study published in 2003 by "Annals of Epidemiology" noted that up to 8.4 percent of pregnant women suffer from asthma and the numbers increase each year. As a result, there is a large market for asthma medications for pregnant women. Albuterol is an effective asthma medication that, when used properly and under a doctor's supervision, is generally considered safe during pregnancy.

Risks of Asthma

With a growing belly pushing against her diaphragm and extra weight to carry around, pregnant women can already have a difficult time breathing and when a woman suffers from asthma, her ability to breathe is further compromised. Proper breathing is essential to provide the baby with oxygenated blood, which is needed for the baby's growth and development. By decreasing the amount of oxygen reaching the baby, maternal asthma has been shown to increase the risk for various complications in the mother and baby. Risks include mortality around the time of birth, high blood pressure, preterm birth and low birth weight babies. In general, the more severe the mother's asthma symptoms, the higher the risk for these outcomes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on managing asthma during pregnancy concludes that “it is safer for pregnant women with asthma to be treated with asthma medications than it is for them to have asthma symptoms and exacerbations and inadequate control of asthma is a greater risk to the fetus than asthma medications are.

Risks of Inhaled Albuterol

Limited information is available regarding published reports of women who used albuterol during pregnancy to determine whether it is safe. One study, published by "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology" found no increase in birth defects, infant mortality, preterm birth, low birth weight or other adverse outcomes among the babies of 259 pregnant women with asthma who used inhaled asthma medications including albuterol. According to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, only small amount of inhaled albuterol get into the mother's blood stream and even smaller amounts, considered to be insignificant, reach the baby. Inhaled Albuterol may temporarily increase the mother's heart rate, and may cause shaking in her limbs.

Risks of Oral Albuterol

Albuterol can also be used late in pregnancy as a tocolytic, which is a medication that suppresses premature labor. For this type of treatment, albuterol is taken by mouth. The Organization of Teratology Information Services reports that oral albuterol treatment can temporarily increase maternal and fetal heart rate and decrease maternal blood pressure. These effects do not last, however, and they have not been found to cause long-term problems for the baby.

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