SSRI-PregnancyOne in ten children in the U.S. suffer from asthma. Is your child one of them? If you are pregnant, will your unborn child develop asthma? Parents know they can’t keep their children in a bubble, but with asthma prevalence doubling in developed countries over past three decades, it’s important for people to know how to recognize the early signs of asthma and seek the help needed.

Research may be getting us closer to decreasing the prevalence of asthma. A recent study published in the Annals of Allergy Asthma and Immunology highlighted interesting information about the development of asthma. Most of us know that allergies and asthma can develop in childhood and even begin to develop in adulthood-but what this study implicates is that these risks can be cultivated years before this: in the womb.

Prenatal care is crucial in the development of a child’s immunity-so it only makes sense that what happens in the womb doesn’t really stay in the womb. Asthma is often genetic, so if you or your partner has it, your child has a greater risk of having asthma as well. Despite genetics, environmental factors also play a role as well.

What’s interesting in this study, however, is that researchers found asthma risk to be increased if a woman took antibiotics during pregnancy. Interestingly enough, Dr. Martin Blaser published in his book Missing Microbes, the link between excessive antibiotic use and increase in asthma and food allergies as well. So what does this mean for pregnant women?

Antibiotics can be taken for any variety of reasons during pregnancy-that decision is between a woman and her physician-and of course antibiotics use should be taken very seriously especially when a fetus’ health is directly affected. However, this new research should cause one to pause. The fact that these medications could increase a child’s risk for asthma in the future is an important issue to consider because the dangers from asthma are real. For example, every day in America 44,000 people have an asthma attack, 4,700 people visit the ER due to asthma, and 10 people die from asthma-related issues. Moreover, as Dr. Blaser points out, unnecessary antibiotic use may even increase mom’s risk of developing allergic conditions such as asthma as well as other inflammatory disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.

Looking at those numbers, of course no parent would want to increase their child’s chances of dealing with this illness. But does this mean all women should then forgo antibiotics during pregnancy? Definitely not. As mentioned, antibiotics can in fact be lifesavers if they are truly needed. But notice that phrase: “truly needed.” Antibiotic use needs to be an open and meaningful discussion between a pregnant women and her doctor, because overuse can have harmful consequences on our immune system. If a fetus is already at risk for developing asthma, patients and their physicians must deliberate and determine if the antibiotic will do more harm than good during pregnancy. Often antibiotics are overused and can destroy some of our good bacteria, which help protect us against allergies and asthma.

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From issue: 30/03-04