MICHAEL SCHATZ, MD: Probably the most important aspect of treating asthma in pregnancy and certainly in working with the patient is trying to balance the risk of not treating against the risk of treating.
ANNOUNCER: Doctors say they feel very comfortable prescribing inhaled medications to counter occasional asthma attacks. The quick-relief drugs, often called "rescue" medicines, have been used for twenty years. And research supports the widespread view that they are safe.
MICHAEL SCHATZ, MD: In the rescue therapy category are the beta agonists -- the inhaled beta agonists such as albuterol -- which do relieve symptoms quickly and people feel comfortable using during pregnancy based on the fact that they've been around a while and there is some human data that's reported. In general, we always feel more comfortable with inhaled medicines during pregnancy versus oral medicines, because less is likely to get to the baby.
ANNOUNCER: Safety issues are especially important with medicines used for the more chronic control of asthma, because the fetus is potentially exposed to those drugs for a longer time.
ALLAN STILLERMAN, MD: The FDA, the Food & Drug Administration categorizes drugs according to their level of risk. Firstly, controlled animal data is reviewed and if available, human data as well as to how these drugs impact on the developing fetus, particularly when taken in the first trimester of pregnancy when the risk for fetal malformations is greatest.