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Female asthma patients using short-acting relievers ‘find it harder to conceive’

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Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women, according to an international study, including UK patients.

In contrast, the study also found that women with the respiratory condition who used long-acting asthma preventers conceived as quickly as other women.

“This study shows that women using short-acting asthma relievers take longer to get pregnant”

Luke Grzeskowiak

The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal and led by the University of Adelaide, involved thousands of women from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

They examined data from the Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study, which recruited more than 5,600 women expecting their first babies in the early stages of pregnancy. Around 10% of women in the study said they had asthma and, overall, these women took longer to get pregnant.

When the researchers separated this group according to the types of asthma treatments being taken, they found women using short-acting beta-agonists took 20% longer to conceive on average.

These women were also 30% more likely to have taken more than a year to conceive, which the researchers defined as the threshold for infertility.

This difference remained even after researchers took other factors known to influence fertility, such as age and weight, into account.

“What we don’t yet know is exactly how asthma or asthma treatments lead to fertility problems”

Luke Grzeskowiak

In contrast, the researchers suggested that the results would provide reassurance for female asthma patients that using inhaled corticosteroids to prevent symptoms did not appear to reduce fertility.

The team said they planned further studies involving women with asthma who are undergoing fertility treatments, to see whether improving asthma control could also improve fertility outcomes.

Lead study author Dr Luke Grzeskowiak highlighted that 5-10% of all women around the world had asthma and it was one of the most common chronic conditions in women of reproductive age.

“Several studies have identified a link between asthma and female infertility, but the impact of asthma treatments on fertility has been unclear,” noted Dr Grzeskowiak.

“Studying the effect of asthma treatments in women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant is important as women often express concerns about exposing their unborn babies to potentially harmful effects of medications,” he said.

Dr Grzeskowiak stated that the new study showed that “women using short-acting asthma relievers take longer to get pregnant”.

University of Adelaide

Asthma patients using short-acting relievers ‘find it harder to conceive’

Source: Randy Larcombe

Luke Grzeskowiak

“On the other hand, continued use of long-acting asthma preventers to control asthma seems to protect fertility and reduce the time it takes women with asthma to become pregnant,” he said. “This could lead to a reduction in the need for fertility treatments.”

He added: “There is plenty of evidence that maternal asthma has a negative impact on the health of pregnant mothers and their babies, and so our general advice is that women should take steps to get their asthma under control before trying to conceive.

“What we don’t yet know is exactly how asthma or asthma treatments lead to fertility problems,” he said. “As well as affecting the lungs, asthma could cause inflammation elsewhere in the body, including the uterus. It could also affect the health of eggs in the ovaries.

“Inhaled corticosteroids suppress the immune system, whereas short-acting asthma treatments do not alter immune function,” noted Dr Grzeskowiak.

“In women who are only using relievers it’s possible that, while their asthma symptoms may improve, inflammation may still be present in the lungs and other organs in the body,” he said.

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