Background: Maternal asthma has been reported to increase the risk of preeclampsia, preterm deliveries, and lower-birth-weight infants, but the mechanisms of this effect are not defined.
Objective: We sought to evaluate the relationship between the use of contemporary asthma medications and adverse perinatal outcomes.
Methods: Asthmatic patients were recruited from the 16 centers of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal Fetal Medicine Units Network from December 1994 through February 2000. Gestational medication use was determined on the basis of patient history at enrollment and at monthly visits during pregnancy. Perinatal data were obtained at postpartum chart reviews. Perinatal outcome variables included gestational hypertension, preterm births, low-birth-weight infants, small-for-gestational-age infants, and major malformations.
Results: The final cohort included 2123 asthmatic participants. No significant relationships were found between the use of inhaled beta-agonists (n=1828), inhaled corticosteroids (n=722), or theophylline (n=273) and adverse perinatal outcomes. After adjusting for demographic and asthma severity covariates, oral corticosteroid use was significantly associated with both preterm birth at less than 37 weeks' gestation (odds ratio, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.02-2.33) and low birth weight of less than 2500 g (odds ratio, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.13-2.88).
Conclusions: Use of inhaled beta-agonists, inhaled steroids, and theophylline do not appear to increase perinatal risks in pregnant asthmatic women. The mechanism of the association between maternal oral corticosteroid use and prematurity remains to be determined.