Pregnant women with asthma should continue taking their medication to prevent complications, says an Australian professor.

The problem is some fear side effects and stop doing so.

But taking medication is safer than going without, says Professor Guy Marks of the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research.

He's co-author of a report that says women who stop using their preventer medicines are at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, giving birth early or having an underweight baby.

If asthma is well controlled during pregnancy the prospects for the mother and child are the same as for women who do not have asthma, Prof Marks says.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting pregnant women in Australia, yet little is known about how many continue to use their preventer medication, says the paper published by the Institute of Health and Welfare.

It calls for population-level monitoring of asthmatic women and for them to have a health check in the first trimester and every four to six weeks thereafter.

Studies of pregnant women in Western Australia, Newcastle and Melbourne suggest about 12 per cent have asthma, but many women and health professionals are concerned about the side effects of medication.

Current clinical guidelines recommend continuing to take medication throughout pregnancy.

"But we really don't know how many women are sticking to the guidelines, or how well," says Prof Marks.

Better data collection would also help paint a clearer picture of who is getting care and who is missing out.

"The problems and solutions we identify along the way could also be used to help with the management of other common chronic diseases, like diabetes and epilepsy," Prof Marks says.

 

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