“Pregnancy was the first time I’d struggled with asthma”

Fiona Brown, 38, experienced asthma flare-ups during her first pregnancy

Fiona Brown photograph“I got pregnant when I was 34. I didn’t notice any problems until I was five months’ pregnant. Then my breathing started to become very difficult. I noticed it particularly when walking up stairs. I had to stop every few steps to catch my breath."

The shock of worsening asthma

“My asthma hadn’t always been that bad. I was diagnosed when I was 13. I was a competitive athlete in baton twirling. But I began to struggle with my breathing at the end of routines. I was prescribed a reliever inhaler and a preventer inhaler. I also learned more about my triggers – cold weather, hot rooms, cigarette smoke and colds or chest infections. As I got older, I was able to manage my asthma well.

“That all changed during my pregnancy. Any kind of physical activity left me feeling unable to take a breath in. I felt I couldn’t get oxygen into my lungs. It was scary. The heavier I got the worse my flare-ups got. My peak flow dropped considerably. Normally, it’s about 550 but it dropped to 200. I could barely breathe into it to even test it.

“Towards the end of the pregnancy, I was prescribed a short course of steroids to help with my breathing. I was really worried about taking the steroids as I’d wanted a natural pregnancy. But my GP reassured me they were safe. If you’re struggling with your asthma in pregnancy, do see your GP or midwife. If they tell you to take medicine you should take it – remember it’s best to keep yourself healthy and doctors wouldn’t put you at risk.

“I’d been so fit and healthy before the pregnancy. Only being able to take three steps at a time was infuriating. I’d have to stop and stoop to recover. My husband, Phillip, did so much to help me – he even had to put my tights on for me at the end as I couldn’t bend over. He understood how difficult it was for me because he has asthma, too."

Well managed again

“I managed to have a home water birth, with hypnobirthing and no pain relief and our son, Seth, was born in April 2014. During the labour, I didn’t need my inhaler once. After the birth, my asthma returned to normal almost immediately, without any problems or flare-ups.

“A few months after Seth was born he developed a persistent night-time cough and he was diagnosed with asthma by a specialist just before his first birthday. It wasn’t really a surprise as it runs in the family.

“One of my biggest concerns about getting pregnant again was the fear of the asthma flare-ups recurring. But in my second pregnancy with Zachariah, who’s now one, my asthma was never an issue.

“Now, my asthma is back to being well managed. I go for regular reviews at my asthma clinic, I eat a very healthy diet and I exercise three times a week at the gym – cardio, weights, dance classes and yoga. Physical activity keeps me healthy and I push myself to get out of breath but I know my limits. Most importantly, I never go anywhere without my blue inhaler – for both me and Seth.”

 Last updated October 2017