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Low birth weight: female fetuses tied to worsening of maternal asthma symptoms.

ORLANDO, FLA. -- Fetal gender may affect maternal asthma symptoms during pregnancy, according to results of a prospective study of 153 pregnant women.

"We found if you had a female baby, things were happening, and the asthma tended to be worse. We found lung function was reduced in the last trimester if the woman was pregnant with a baby girl, and that she needed more inhaled steroids to control the asthma," study investigator Dr. Peter G. Gibson said at a press conference during the 100th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society.

The study, presented in poster form at the meeting, included 120 asthmatic women and 33 women without asthma. The team assessed patients at 18 and 30 weeks' gestation and recorded their use of inhaled corticosteroids, lung function, morning and night symptoms, use of reliever medications, and activity limitations. The researchers did not know the gender of the fetus until after delivery.

Sixty percent of women pregnant with a male fetus remained free of asthma symptoms throughout gestation. Although 61% of women with a female fetus were symptom free at 18 weeks, by week 30 only 28% of the women were still symptom free. Nighttime symptoms and use of inhaled glucocorticoids increased significantly during the 12-week period, said Dr. Gibson, professor in the department of respiratory and sleep medicine at Hunter Medical Research Institute at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, Australia.

Dr. Gibson noted at the press conference that women carrying female fetuses had elevated monocyte counts and suggested that female fetuses may somehow trigger increased inflammation in pregnant women.

In a prior study, Dr. Gibson found that girls born to asthmatic mothers who did not use inhaled steroids during pregnancy suffered from low birth weight, which did not happen if the mother used inhaled steroids or delivered a male child.

"Guidelines for management of asthma in pregnancy recommend the use of inhaled steroids for women who have sufficient symptoms," said Dr. Gibson, who expressed concern about women who arbitrarily stop using their inhaled steroids as soon as they learn they are pregnant. Such action can lead to severe attacks that can endanger the fetus.

BY DEBRA WOOD

Contributing Writer
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Title Annotation:Obstetrics
Author:Wood, Debra
Publication:OB GYN News
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:360
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