The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Women using short-acting asthma relievers can take 20% longer to conceive

Use of long-acting asthma preventers does not affect fertility

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers can take longer to become pregnant than other women, suggests research* published today in the European Respiratory Journal.

However, women with asthma using long-acting asthma preventers conceive just as quickly as other women.

Globally, up to 10% of all women have asthma. Several previous studies have identified a link between asthma and female infertility, but the impact of asthma treatments on fertility has been unclear.

Therefore, a team of researchers led by pharmacist and research fellow Dr Luke Gressorial from the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, Australia, set out to examine the impact of asthma and asthma medication use on fecund ability and time to become pregnant.

The researchers studied data from the international Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints (SCOPE) study, which recruited 5,617 women from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland who were expecting their first babies in the early stages of pregnancy.

Women were asked if they had been diagnosed with asthma and, if so, which medicines they had used, as well as how long it had taken them to become pregnant.

Of the 5,617 women in the study, 19.7% reported doctor-diagnosed asthma and among women with asthma, 11.7% were identified as current asthmatics and 8% were former asthmatics.

Overall, the women in the study identified as currently being asthmatic took longer to get pregnant.

When researchers separated this group according to the types of asthma treatments they were using, they found no difference in fertility between women using long-acting asthma treatments and women without asthma.

However, women only using short-acting beta-agonists took 20% longer to conceive on average. They were also 30% more likely to have taken more than a year to conceive, which the researchers defined as the threshold for suffering infertility.

This difference was still evident even after researchers took other factors which are known to influence fertility, such as age and weight, into account.

Dr Gressorial said the results should provide reassurance for asthmatic women that using inhaled corticosteroids to prevent symptoms did not appear to reduce fertility.

“This study shows that women using short-acting asthma relievers take longer to get pregnant,” he said. “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. This could lead to a reduction in the need for fertility treatments.

“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.”

Professor Mina Gaga, president of the European Respiratory Society, said: “This large study provides reassurance that using preventers, which include inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting bronchodilators, to prevent asthma symptoms helps asthmatic women be as fertile as non-asthmatic women, while intermittent treatment with short acting relievers is associated with reduced fertility.”

*Gressorial LE, Smithers LG, Grieger JA, et al. Asthma treatment impacts time to pregnancy: evidence from the international SCOPE study. Eur Respir J 2018; 0: 1702035; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.02035-2017

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470