Asthma and women

Asthma and the menstrual cycle

Some girls find that their asthma is worse around the time their periods start, although this usually settles down as their menstrual cycle becomes regular. 

Women with severe asthma may find that their symptoms are worse just before or during a period.

  • Some medicine used for period pain (like Nurofen, Ibuprofen and Ponstan) can cause an asthma attack in some people.
  • Paracetamol is usually safe.
  • The oral contraceptive pill has no effect on asthma. 

Asthma in pregnancy

It’s important to continue to take asthma medicines while you’re pregnant. 

Your asthma may improve, get worse or stay the same during your pregnancy. If your asthma gets worse, you may need to increase your medicine and discuss your asthma action plan with your doctor.

Asthma inhalers won’t harm your baby during pregnancy. Your baby will do best if you’re breathing well and easily.

A very small number of women with severe asthma need to take steroid tablets during pregnancy. This can make it more likely that your baby will be born underweight. However, the risk to the baby of uncontrolled asthma is likely to be much greater. You and your doctor need to work out what is best for you and your baby. 

Reducing the risk of your baby having asthma

The best thing a pregnant woman can do to prevent their baby from getting asthma is not to smoke. This is even more important if there is a family history of asthma. 

There’s no proof that you can reduce the risk of your baby having asthma by changing your diet when pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • If you have food allergies yourself, continue to avoid these foods.
  • It’s important to let your doctor or midwife know so they can check that you’re still getting the right nutrition for yourself and your baby.


If you’re able to breastfeed for your baby’s first few months, you may reduce the chance of them developing allergic conditions, including asthma.

Avoid using oils containing peanut oil for cracked nipples. (Some babies can develop an allergy to the nut content of the oil.)

Your inhaled medicines don’t pass into your breast milk – and even if you have to use steroid tablets, the small quantities that are found in breast milk won’t have any harmful effect on your baby.

Keeping your baby away from cigarette smoke will also reduce their risk of developing asthma or sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI, or SIDS).


Menopause may have an effect on your asthma because your hormone levels will be changing.

  • The use of steroid tablets or high doses of inhaled steroids for a number of years may increase your risk of osteoporosis (a disease which affects the strength of your bones).
  • You can reduce this risk by using a spacer, rinsing your mouth after taking your inhalers, and ensuring you have a diet high in calcium. 
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