Inhaled corticosteroids

(Date: December 2016. Version: 1.1)

This factsheet has been written for members of the public by the UK Teratology Information Service (UKTIS). UKTIS is a not-for-profit organisation funded by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on behalf of UK Health Departments. UKTIS has been providing scientific information to health care providers since 1983 on the effects that medicines, recreational drugs and chemicals may have on the developing baby during pregnancy.

What are they?

Corticosteroids are a group of medicines that dampen the immune response. Inhaled corticosteroids (beclometasone, budesonide, ciclesonide, fluticasone, and mometasone) control inflammation in the lungs and are most commonly used to treat asthma.

What are the benefits of using inhaled corticosteroids in pregnancy?

Inhaled corticosteroids control the symptoms of asthma to minimise the impact of this condition on quality of life and prevent dangerous asthma attacks. Pregnant women whose asthma is well-controlled are less likely to give birth to a small baby, deliver prematurely, or develop complications such as pre-eclampsia, than women with uncontrolled asthma.

Are there any risks of using inhaled corticosteroids during pregnancy?

The available data does not raise concern that inhaled corticosteroids when used as prescribed can harm a baby in the womb. Most pregnant women using inhaled corticosteroids will be taking a dose that is likely to reach the unborn baby only in small amounts.

Are there any alternatives to using inhaled corticosteroids in pregnancy?

Probably not. Women using inhaled corticosteroids will usually be advised to stay on their medication during pregnancy as this is generally the safest option to ensure that asthma remains well-controlled. However, women using inhaled corticosteroids who are planning a pregnancy should consult their doctor or specialist so that their medication and dosage can be reviewed.

What if I prefer not to use medicines during pregnancy?

Your doctor will only prescribe medicines when absolutely necessary and will be happy to talk with you about any concerns that you might have. Asthma medications should generally be continued in pregnancy to ensure that asthma remains well-controlled.

Will my baby need any extra monitoring?

As part of routine antenatal care, most women will be offered a very detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy to check the baby’s development. Women using an inhaled corticosteroid in pregnancy will not usually need any extra monitoring.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father is taking inhaled corticosteroids?

There is no evidence that inhaled corticosteroids used by the father around the time of conception can harm the baby.

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from

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General information 

Up to 1 out of every 5 pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and 1 in 40 babies are born with a birth defect. These are referred to as the background population risks.  They describe the chance of these events happening for any pregnancy before taking factors such as the mother’s health during pregnancy, her lifestyle, medicines she takes and the genetic make up of her and the baby’s father into account.

Medicines use in pregnancy

Most medicines used by the mother will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Sometimes this may have beneficial effects for the baby.  There are, however, some medicines that can harm a baby’s normal development.  How a medicine affects a baby may depend on the stage of pregnancy when the medicine is taken. If you are on regular medication you should discuss these effects with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please ensure the doctor or health care professional treating you is aware of your pregnancy.

When deciding whether or not to use a medicine in pregnancy you need to weigh up how the medicine might improve your and/or your unborn baby’s health against any possible problems that the drug may cause. Our bumps leaflets are written to provide you with a summary of what is known about use of a specific medicine in pregnancy so that you can decide together with your health care provider what is best for you and your baby.   

Every pregnancy is unique. The decision to start, stop, continue or change a prescribed medicine before or during pregnancy should be made in consultation with your health care provider. It is very helpful if you can record all your medication taken in pregnancy in your hand held maternity records.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to replace the individual care and advice of your health care provider. New information is continually becoming available. Whilst every effort will be made to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date at the time of publication, we cannot cover every eventuality and the information providers cannot be held responsible for any adverse outcomes following decisions made on the basis of this information. We strongly advise that printouts should NOT be kept for any length of time, or for “future reference” as they can rapidly become out of date.

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