Evidence Based Approach for the Management of Asthma in Pregnancy By: Muhamad Na’im B. Ab Razak (MD USM) Image of a pregnant lady using the inhaler taken from Science Photo Library at this link http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/289804/enlargeAsthma is an increasingly common chronic illness in pregnancy with the prevalence mayreach up to 8%. [Holland & Thomson, 2006]. Pregnancy is characterized by a physiologicalimmunosuppression, an immunological tolerance that protects the fetus from maternalimmune response against paternal antigens expressed by the fetus. [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011]Physiological pregnancy has been described as a Th2-dominated state, and current studiesshow that a trimester dependent, pregnancy-induced increase in regulatory T cell (Tregs)number has a key role in the maintenance of maternal tolerance to paternal antigens duringpregnancy, exerting an inhibition on the activation of effector T lymphocytes and NK cells.[Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011] Absence of trimester dependent regulatory T cell elevation inasthmatic pregnancy leads to impaired inhibition of T lymphocyte and NK cell activation andproliferation. Elevated numbers of activated effector T lymphocytes and NK cells may causeimmune mediated alteration of fetal growth and enhancement of allergic/asthmatic response.[Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011]
Pregnancy may alter the natural course of asthma. Asthma improves during pregnancy inabout one-third, remains the same in another one-third, and worsens in one-third of pregnantwomen. More severe asthma before pregnancy increases the risk of worsening duringpregnancy, and there is a concordance between the courses of asthma during subsequentpregnancies [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011]. Lung inflammation, smoking, obesity , alteredplacental function [Ross E. Rocklin, 2011] and female fetuses are also recognized risk factorfor asthma exacerbation. [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011] and poor pregnancy outcomes.Patient may also suffers from co- morbid condition such as obesity, pregnancy-inducedhypertension and gastro-oesophageal reflux. [Holland & Thomson, 2006] Asthma representsa risk factor for several maternal and fetal complications, such as asthma exacerbations, use oforal corticosteroids, hospitalizations due to asthma attacks, preeclampsia, gestationalhypertension, preterm delivery, cesarean delivery, low birth weight, intrauterine growthrestriction, and fetal death [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011].Most of the asthma exacerbation are usually mild and self limiting and rarely causing severeattack. However, if severe exacerbation occur, it will cause significant morbidity andmortality to the patient as well as the fetus. Major risk of asthma to the mother and fetus aredue to under treatment or poorly controlled disease and may be compounded by poor maternalcompliance with treatment due to fears of side-effects on the unborn child [Holland &Thomson, 2006] Apart from that, Jennifer W. Mc Callister et al, has found out that there is adisparities of treatment for acute exacerbation of asthma in emergency department especiallyin term of systemic steroid administration. This should not happen and pregnancy should beconsidered an indication for maximizing therapy during an exacerbation, rather thanwithholding it.Congenital malformation may complicate maternal asthmatic exacerbation in early trimesteras maternal hypoxia together with respiratory alkalosis may decrease the placental blood flow.Decreased fetal blood oxygen could result in abnormal growth and development of the fetus.Furthermore, maternal hypoxia has been found to be associated with an increased risk of cleftlip and palate in mice.[ Lucie Blais & Amelie Forget, 2008]
Short acting beta 2 agonist (SABA) is safe eventhough it is previously being said that theusage of this agent will increase the risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension. Theexplaination laid behind this hypothesis was that the inhaled SABA will enter the systemiccirculation and cause vasodilation of the blood vessel. This will then cause reduction indiastolic blood pressure and cause reflex tachycardia. Study by Marie-Jose´e Martel et alhowever shows that inhaled SABA actually reduced the risk of PIH and the use of thismedication is safe throughout pregnancy. The reasons for the previous hypothesis of relationbetween SABA-PIH could be due to some reason including smoking and masking effect ofSABA that reduce the diastolic blood pressure, hence lead to under diagnosed of PIH. Theusage of SABA alone is safe, however, it should be pointed out that all patients withpersistent asthma require a controller medication such as an inhaled steroid [R.E. Rocklin etal, 2011]Long-acting Beta 2 agonists are now recommended to be used in conjunction with inhaledsteroids. The use of these long-acting bronchodilators as monotherapy was reported in onestudy that did not find any evidence of an effect on fetal growth in humans [R.E. Rocklin et al,2011]The usage of high dose ICS may increase the risk of congenital malformation if use in the firsttrimester. Lucie Blais et al in her study observed that women who took high doses of ICSsduring the first trimester of pregnancy were 63% more likely to have a baby with a congenitalmalformation than women taking low to moderate doses of ICSs. However, low to moderatedose of ICS is safe. Furthermore, current asthma guidelines recommend ICSs for themanagement of all levels of persistent asthma during pregnancy and recommend that pregnantwomen be treated as aggressively as nonpregnant women to achieve and maintain control ofasthma. [Marie-Claude Breton et al, 2010] The risk of perinatal mortality was not found tobe significantly associated with ICS use during pregnancy. The result associated with higherdoses of ICSs is limited due to a lack of statistical power and a possibility of residualconfounding by asthma severity and control. [Marie-Claude Breton et al, 2010] Furthermore,a trend towards higher Treg cell prevalence was observed compared to those with inadequateadherence to ICS treatment. [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011] Therefore, asthmatic pregnant womenshould be managed with the minimum effective ICS dose. But if higher doses of ICSs areneeded to control asthma, their benefits outweigh their risks. [Marie-Claude Breton et al,2010]
The usage of oral corticosteroid previously being said to be associated with increase risk ofcongenital malformation particularly cleft lip, cleft palate or both. However, observation byLucie Blais & Amelie Forget in their study shows that women who had an asthmaexacerbation but who did not fill a prescription for oral corticosteroids were 2 times morelikely to have a baby with a major congenital malformation than women who did not have anexacerbation. It is found that the hypothesis that link between the usage of oral corticosteroidand congenital malformation are weak. Study by Ludmila N. Bakhireva et al, demonstrate thatthe usage of systemic corticosteroid may resulting in deficit of about 200 g in birthweightcompared with controls and exclusive B2-agonist users. However, the result is not significantto suggest that the usage of this agent impair fetal growth and it use should be weighedagainst the necessity to control severe asthma.Chromones such as cromolyn and nedocromil have an anti inflammatory activity but due totheir relatively limited efficacy, it should only be used in mild persistent asthma andrecommended as alternative medication only.Leukotriane modifiers such as leukotriene receptor antagonists (montelukast and zirfirlukast)and 5-lipoxygenase pathway inhibitors (zileuton) are not preferred as treatment option in mildpersistent asthma in pregnancy.Theophylline that has bronchodilating activity and mild anti inflammatory properties are safeto be used in pregnancy but it is considered as alternative treatment and not the preferredtherapyIn managing severe acute asthma, Oral corticosteroid should not be witheld. The BritishThoracic society guidelines has clearly stated that the medical management of asthma inpregnant and non pregnant mother are same. Volume resuscitation should be considered asthere would be a volume deplition due to combination of hyperventilation and intercurrentsepsis despite of difficulty in accessing the fluid balance. Central venous access is impracticaland potentially dangerous in severe asthmatic. Regional anesthesia especially epidural is morepreferred than general anesthesia if patient required operative delivery or as painmanagement as it reduce hyperventilation and stress response to the pain. However,judgement should be made clearly as regional anesthesia would be impractical in patient who
are severely breathless and precipitate deterioration of lung function due to loss of intercostalmuscle functionApart from that, education about asthma, life style modification and smoking cessation shouldbe encourage to the patient. Main education topic should includes information about thedisease, use of inhaler devices, adherence to treatment and importance of regular visit,environmental control measure to reduce exposure to allergens and irritants and self treatmentaction plan. [Lilla Tamasi et al, 2011].Reference: 1) Faranak Firoozi, Catherine Lemiere, Francine M. Ducharme et al, "Effect of maternal moderate to severe asthma on perinatal outcomes", Respiratory Medicine (2010) 104, 1278- 1287 2) Jennifer W. McCallister, Cathy G. Benninger, Heather A. Frey, et al, "Pregnancy related treatment disparities of acute asthma exacerbations in the emergency department", Respiratory Medicine (2011) 105, 1434-1440 3) Lilla Tamasi, Ildiko´ Horvath, Aniko Bohacs et al, " Asthma in pregnancy e Immunological changes and clinical management", Respiratory Medicine (2011) 105, 159-164, Elsevier 4) Lucie Blais & Amelie Forget, "Asthma exacerbations during the first trimester of pregnancy and the risk of congenital malformations among asthmatic women", J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008;121:1379-84 5) Lucie Blais, Marie-France Beauchesne, Catherine Lemie` & Naoual Elftouh, "High doses of inhaled corticosteroids during the first trimester of pregnancy and congenital malformations", J Allergy Clin Immunol 2009;124:1229-34.
6) Ludmila N. Bakhireva, Kenneth Lyons Jones, Michael Schatz et al, "Asthma medication use in pregnancy and fetal growth", J Allergy Clin Immunol 2005;116:503-9.)7) Marie-Claude Breton,, Marie-France Beauchesne, Catherine Lemie, et al, "Risk of perinatal mortality associated with inhaled corticosteroid use for the treatment of asthma during pregnancy", J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;126:772-7.8) Marie-Jose´e Martel, E´ velyne Rey, Marie-France Beauchesne, et al "Use of short-acting b2-agonists during pregnancy and the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension", J Allergy Clin Immunol 2007;119:576-829) Ross E. Rocklin, "Asthma, asthma medications and their effects on maternal/fetal outcomes during pregnancy", Reproductive Toxicology 32 (2011) 189–19710) S. M. Holland, K. D. Thomson, "Acute severe asthma presenting in late pregnancy", International Journal of Obstetric Anesthesia (2006) 15, 75–78