Asthma Drugs in Pregnancy May Boost Risk for Children

Asthma is common in pregnant women, and typically, glucocorticoids are prescribed as treatment. However, a recent study found that mothers who use glucocorticoids during pregnancy may actually increase the risk that their child will have an endocrine and metabolic disorder.

A recent study found that mothers who use a certain class of steroids--glucocorticoids--to treat asthma during pregnancy may actually increase the risk that their child will have an endocrine and metabolic disorder.

Asthma is common in pregnant women, and typically, glucocorticoids are prescribed as treatment.

Researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland focused on over 65,000 pairs of mothers and their children, all of whom were a part of the Danish National Birth Cohort and were followed from early pregnancy into childhood.

In the study, 61,002 women (93.7% of the total number of women in the study) did not have asthma during pregnancy and did not use asthma inhalers or other treatments while 4083 women (6.3% of the whole) did have asthma during pregnancy and treated it.

At the end of the follow-up (at which point the median age of the child was 6.1 years), the researchers found that the use of inhalers containing glucocorticoids to treat a mother’s asthma during pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased risk of the diagnosis of endocrine and metabolic disorders in comparison to mothers who did not use inhalers containing glucocorticoids during pregnancy.

The results were comparable when the researchers looked only at mothers who used budesonide, a glucocorticoid which 79% of the women used to treat their asthma.

The primary author, Marion Tegethoff, PhD, associate faculty member in clinical psychology and psychiatry at the University of Basel, reported that while a mother’s use of glucocorticoids was linked to an increase in asthma, the steroids were not connected to an increase in any other diseases.

"Our data are mostly reassuring and support the use of inhaled glucocorticoids during pregnancy,” wrote Tegethoff.

Study co-author author Gunther Meinlschmidt, an associate faculty member in clinical psychology and epidemiology, reported in a release that, "While our results support the use of these widely used asthma treatments during pregnancy, their effect on endocrine and metabolic disturbances during childhood merits further study."

The study was published online ahead of print in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.