Objective: To determine whether adverse perinatal outcome is associated with asthma or asthma medication use during pregnancy.
Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted of women who resided in Halifax County, Nova Scotia, and delivered between 1991 and 1993. Asthmatic women were classified into three groups, according to medication usage: no medications, beta agonists only, and steroids with or without other asthma medications. Outcomes compared among asthmatic and nonasthmatic women included maternal complications (pregnancy-induced hypertension, cesarean delivery, gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and antepartum and postpartum hemorrhage) and neonatal outcomes (low birth weight, congenital malformations, hyperbilirubinemia, and respiratory distress syndrome).
Results: The cohort included 817 asthmatic women and 13,709 nonasthmatic women. Overall, the prevalence of pregnancies complicated by asthma increased from 4.8% in 1991 to 6.9% in 1993. Asthmatic women were at increased risk for antepartum and postpartum hemorrhage, independent of medication usage. Asthmatic women taking steroids were at increased risk for pregnancy-induced hypertension (odds ratio [OR] 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.0, 2.9). The only significant difference in neonatal outcome between asthma medication groups and nonasthmatic women was of an increased risk of hyperbilirubinemia in infants of women taking steroids (OR 1.9; 95% CI 1.1, 3.4).
Conclusion: Risk of antepartum and postpartum hemorrhage is increased in asthmatic women, independent of medication usage. The increased incidence of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia and the borderline increased risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension may be complications of steroid use or may be related to poorly controlled asthma.