Over the years it has been widely stated that approximately one-third of asthmatic women experience worsening of the disease during pregnancy. However, the literature has not been reviewed systematically and the meta-analytic reviews include old studies. This study aimed to examine whether the prevalence of worsening asthma during pregnancy is still consistent with prior estimate or it has been reduced.
A detailed Clinical Questionnaire on respiratory symptoms, medical history, medication, use of services, occupation, social status, home environment and lifestyle was administered to random samples of the Italian population in the frame of the Gene Environment Interactions in Respiratory Diseases (GEIRD) study. Only clinical data belong to 2.606 subjects that completed the clinical stage of the GEIRD study, were used for the present study.
Out of 1.351 women, 284 self-reported asthma and 92 of them had at least one pregnancy. When we considered the asthma course during pregnancy, we found that 16 women worsened, 31 remained unchanged, 25 improved. Seven women had not the same course in the different pregnancies and 13 did not know. The starting age of ICS use almost overlaps with that of asthma onset in women with worsening asthma during pregnancy (19 years ± 1.4), unlike the other women who started to use ICS much later (30.3 years ± 12). In addition, the worsening of asthma was more frequent in women with an older age of onset of asthma (18 years ± 9 vs 13 years ± 10). Among women who completed the ACT during the clinical interview, the 50% of women who experienced worsening asthma during pregnancy (6/12) had an ACT score below 20.
Asthma was observed to worsen during pregnancy in a percentage much lower to that generally reported in all the previous studies. There is still room in clinical practice to further reduce worsening of asthma during pregnancy by improving asthma control, with a more structured approach to asthma education and management prepregnancy.