Asthma, Pregnancy and Reducing Autism Risk:

Gaining good asthma control is absolutely crucial for healthy and stress-free pregnancy and birth. But simply having medical control over symptoms without actually having control over breathing behaviour is not always enough to prevent developing babies from adverse effects of asthma.

Bronchodilator medicines (B2A Agonists) that are commonly used to reduce and rescue asthma attacks are able to cross the placenta barrier and may affect developing neural tissue.

Lung Disease news reported this information in 2016, but many expectant mothers are still unaware that overuse of their rescue inhalers and use of long acting bronchodilators (LABA) may affect their unborn child. And the evidence suggests that the more rescue medicine expectant mothers with asthma use and the longer they use them; the more they may be putting their unborn children at risk.

Studies have suggested that Short Acting Bronchodilator (SABA) inhaler medications like Albuterol and Long Acting Bronchodilators (LABA) such as Salmeterol; are able to cross the placenta barrier and may affect developing neurons of unborn children – increasing the risk of developing Autism. These medicines are commonly used as rescue inhalers to open the airways in an asthma emergency, and as maintenance, preventer or controller medications in combination with inhaled cortico-steroids.

Because mothers with uncontrolled asthma are already at greater risk of poor birth outcomes due to stress and other factors such as medicine over use, getting control of asthma symptoms  with the least amount of medicine is of utmost importance – so this should be the number one goal for healthy conception and pregnancy – and a healthy baby.

The “catch-22” is that during  pregnancy, hormones and restrictions on the diaphragm can lead to breathlessness and  hyperventilation episodes. Increased or altered breathing patterns due to these changes is stressful for both mom and baby, and also can directly increase particle load leading to inflammation and histamine responses that have most asthmatics usually reaching for rescue inhalers.

Breathing behaviour has a massive role to play in assisting asthma management and the reduction of medicine. This is also the one factor that the asthmatic has some measure of control over and can become empowered to better manage their condition. Breathing behaviour alters with stress, environment, speech patterns, sleep patterns, diet, exercise preferences and so on. It is unfortunate – and a great disservice to expecting families – that this major factor is often overlooked when determining where an asthmatic is losing their carefully, and often hard won, control.

Pregnancy is not the ideal time to begin engaging in “breathing gymnastics” or “retreats” that encourage hyperventilation and deep breathing. But most expectant mothers instinctively know their breathing patterns are affected and often seek easy relief for the sensations of reduced oxygen from breathing becoming slightly dysfunctional.  If you don’t know that breathing exercises can be harmful as well as helpful, it’s hard to know where to look for the correct information. The internet and Facebook are littered with examples of “pop-psychology” or “relaxation” exercises that involve long breath holds, extended or deep breaths. Most of these techniques actually work by destabilizing breathing gases and encouraging a “rescue response” of increased oxygen afterwards. This may leave us feeling energized as a side effect, but all of these techniques are not part of Normal Breathing. They can even work to destabilize an already dysfunctional breathing pattern if done too often and may exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Buteyko techniques offered by a trained and experienced in person Buteyko practitioner are able to help most asthmatics gain control of asthma symptoms naturally by Normalizing and Restoring breathing patterns. The restoration and recovery techniques are delivered as a program that is suited to your specific breathing pattern after a full assessment is done via questionnaires and your practitioner’s careful observance over several days.

Buteyko techniques teach how to arrest an asthma attack the second it begins, allowing asthmatics to reduce their reliance on inhaled bronchodilators and giving them other things to do when allergies strike. This reduces reliance on medications that may be putting pregnancies at risk.

Buteyko techniques (like those taught by Buteyko South Africa and the Buteyko Institute of Breathing and Health) have proven to be a safe and effective intervention for medically uncontrolled asthma in several clinical and RC trials in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Egypt, India and Canada.

©Buteyko South Africa

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