Asthma & Pregnancy: Triggers

Reviewed by Kanao Otsu, MD, MPH
It is important to know what things make your asthma worse and how to avoid them when pregnant.

Things that can make asthma worse include: irritants, allergies, exercise, infections, sinusitis, weather, emotions, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and hormone changes.



Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Both can make asthma worse. Smoke exposure also can pose major risks for your unborn baby. Learn more about the risks of secondhand smoke



Avoid things to which you are allergic (allergens). Pollen, mold, animal dander, house dust mites and cockroaches are common allergens. Learn more about allergies and asthma.



If exercise makes your asthma worse, talk with your doctor. Using inhaled medication before you exercise can often prevent asthma symptoms while you exercise. Continuing to exercise, while pregnant, is desirable. Read more about exercise-induced asthma.



A cold, the flu or other respiratory infections can make asthma worse. Good hand washing is the most effective way to avoid the spread of common cold viruses. The yearly flu vaccine is recommended for people with asthma. It may be given during the second or third trimester of pregnancy.



Sinusitis can make asthma worse, especially at night. Treating the inflammation in the nose and decreasing the postnasal drip can reduce cough and throat irritation. This can decrease asthma symptoms.

Sinus care often includes:

  • Nasal wash. A saltwater or nasal saline wash helps remove mucus and bacteria from the nose and sinuses. When done routinely, this can also decrease postnasal drip. The nasal wash should be done before using a steroid nasal spray.
  • Steroid nasal spray. This helps to decrease irritation and inflammation in the nasal and sinus passages. Mucus production and swelling decrease.

Learn more about sinusitis.



Emotions do not cause asthma, but if a person has asthma, emotions can make asthma worse.



Asthma symptoms may occur with changes in the weather. However, there is not one type of climate which is good or bad for all people with asthma. Work with your doctor on keeping your asthma under good control in whatever climate you live.


Gastrointestinal or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

In some people, the muscle between the esophagus and stomach may not work well. This allows some back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus, which may cause heartburn. This acid also may cause a reflex response that can result in asthma symptoms. This is more common during pregnancy and is treatable. Learn more about gastroesophageal reflux disease.


Hormone Changes

There are a variety of hormonal changes during pregnancy. An equal amount of women’s asthma is worse, better and stays the same during pregnancy.


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