Around 13% of pregnant women in Australia have asthma and now there’s a program to help them through their pregnancies—Breathe Well for Your Baby.
Launched in Canberra last week, the Breathe Well for Your Baby Program aims to improve the health of pregnant women and their babies and is based on the recently launched online Asthma in Pregnancy Toolkit.
A world-first initiative designed by the team at the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HRMI) and University of Newcastle, the Toolkit is “an easily accessed, accurate reference tool for health professionals involved in pregnancy care, including GPs, pharmacists, midwives and obstetricians,” says Associate Professor Vanessa Murphy, a scientist from the HMRI Asthma and Breathing Program.
As an asthmatic herself, Vanessa has experienced the impacts of the condition on pregnancy.
“I had a flare up when I was pregnant with my younger daughter where I had to go on steroids for the first time in my life and that was really scary to go through.”
It was important to Vanessa that the toolkit—whilst designed for health care professionals—can also guide families through this important time in their lives.
“There is a designated section for women and families, including a list of questions they can take to their healthcare professional,” Vanessa explains.
Lisa Randone is asthmatic and currently pregnant with her second child. She says that the toolkit has already helped her understand more about the choices she has with her body.
“When I fell pregnant, one of my main concerns was making sure I wasn’t taking too much medication—and I think that’s the reason why my asthma got worse,” Lisa says.
Trending data shows that many women share Lisa’s concerns about using medications during their pregnancies, and as they scale back, their second trimester often sees a spike in asthma attacks.
Vanessa says this situation is avoidable—something the toolkit helps explain to both health professionals and families alike.
“It’s been well documented that using medications during your early pregnancy is best and there aren’t any adverse outcomes—and in fact, the outcomes can be better when asthma is actively managed,” Vanessa said.
Confusing and mixed messaging is also something Vanessa is helping to combat.
“I hear from women who are frustrated with their GPs because they tell them not to take their medication—but then another professional tells them to take it,” explains Vanessa.
“They’re in conflict, and this toolkit aims to help spread awareness for both mothers and health professionals about the impacts of medication and what is safe to do.”
Vanessa’s advice for women who are currently pregnant and have asthma is to go into their doctor’s office and advocate for themselves—something that the toolkit can help them feel confident to do.
“Go to your doctor and ask for a personalised action plan, ask any questions you have about using your inhaler and make a plan for what to do if you do have an asthma attack,” Vanessa says.
Funded as part of the ACT Health Promotions Grant Program and conducted in partnership with Asthma Australia, pregnant Canberrans with asthma can now start breathing easier.