Inhaled Asthma Drugs May be Risky in Pregnancy

Woman who use inhaled asthma drugs during pregnancy may put their children at an increased risk for endocrine and metabolic disturbances, a new study finds. However, the study, published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was unable to link the drugs, known as inhaled glucocorticoids, to other serious disorders in children exposed to the medications prior to birth.

According to a report from HealthDay News, asthma is common in pregnant women and the drugs, inhaled glucocorticoids are the recommended treatment for the disorder. This new study involved a review of data collected from 1996 to 2003 on 65,085 mother–child pairs from the Danish National Birth Cohort. Of these, 4083 (6.3%) of the mothers had asthma during pregnancy. Most – just over 79 percent – were treated with the inhaled glucocorticoid, budesonide (Pulmicort).

The study found a significantly increased risk for endocrine and metabolic disorders during childhood, compared with the offspring of the mothers who did not use inhaled glucocorticoids. The study authors surmised that a proportion of inhaled glucocorticoids might cross the placenta and enter the fetus through the systemic circulation. Synthetic glucocorticoids might also secondarily affect the fetus by altering maternal physiology. However, they noted that these findings require further independent study.

“Regarding most disease categories, data are reassuring, supporting the use of inhaled glucocorticoids during pregnancy,” the researchers conclude. “However, the risk of endocrine and metabolic disorders in the offspring of women using glucocorticoid inhalation during pregnancy needs further attention, as does the risk of diseases in diagnostic categories for which we only had small case numbers.”

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