New research has found that females with asthma who use their inhaler in an emergency – rather than take long-term medication – may have more problems conceiving.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia looked at data from 5,000 women in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland who were in the early stages of their first pregnancies. Each was asked if they suffered from asthma and which medications they used.
10% of the women questioned had asthma, and researchers found that those who only used their inhaler to alleviate the symptoms of an asthma attack took longer to get pregnant.
Those women using short-term medication – like inhalers – took on average 20% longer to conceive.
They were also 40% more likely to take over a year to get pregnant, which is what the researchers defined as the threshold for suffering infertility.
Conversely, those women taking long-term meds – even when they weren’t suffering symptoms – had the same chances of conceiving as other women.
Even when variables like weight and age were taken into account, these differences remained.
Unfortunately, at this time, researchers don’t know have an explanation for their findings.
‘What we don’t yet know is exactly how asthma or asthma treatments lead to fertility problems,’ explains lead researcher Dr Luke Grzeskowiak.
‘As well as affecting the lungs, asthma could cause inflammation elsewhere is the body, including the uterus. It could also affect the health of eggs in the ovaries.
‘Inhaled corticosteroids suppress the immune system, whereas short-acting asthma treatments do not alter immune function.
‘In women who are only using relievers it’s possible that, while their asthma symptoms may improve, inflammation may still be present in the lungs and other organs in the body.’
The researchers said the results did not include women from the time they were trying to conceive, so it excluded women who were unable to conceive naturally.
Results didn’t include women from the time they were trying to get pregnant, so they didn’t include women unable to conceive naturally.
Therefore researchers are planning further studies involving women with asthma who are undergoing fertility treatments, to see whether improving asthma control could also improve fertility.
So what advice do the researchers have for women who may be concerned by this news?
‘There is plenty of evidence that maternal asthma has a negative impact on the health of pregnant mothers and their babies,’ Grzeskowiak says.
‘And so our general advice is that women should take steps to get their asthma under control before trying to conceive.’