Allergies During Pregnancy
Being pregnant does not only mean taking care of your baby, it also means looking after yourself. Taking care of your health is vital, and if you have an allergy, or allergies, getting help for your condition should continue during pregnancy.
Allergic symptoms and reactions can change during pregnancy, and some women find that being pregnant reduces their symptoms, while others find that they increase. This is thought to be due to the changing levels of hormones in the body. Tell your midwife about any allergies you have when you visit for your booking appointment and ask for these to be recorded on any other medical notes and records kept about you during your pregnancy.
If you do have an increase in the symptoms of your allergy, visit your GP and tell them about this. They will be able to advise you.
Medications and treatments
It is very important that you do not stop taking any prescribed medications or treatments suddenly when you find out that you are pregnant. Some allergy treatments keep allergy and allergic disease at bay through regular use, for example, the use of an inhaler for asthma. If you suddenly stop using medicines your symptoms could escalate dangerously.
Although you should continue with your current prescription medicines, it is a good idea to visit your GP as soon as you know, or think, you are pregnant. They will review your medications and discuss your treatment options for allergy with you. Your doctor will be able to decide which medications you can continue with, and which may need to be changed during pregnancy, and whilst breastfeeding.
If you are planning to get pregnant, it is worth having a review of your medicines with your GP before you get pregnant. By thinking ahead about your treatment options you will not have to worry once your pregnancy begins.
Some treatments that you may be having may have to be changed during your pregnancy. If you are undergoing immunotherapy for your allergy you should tell your allergist if you are considering starting a family, or as soon as you become pregnant, and your specialist will be able to advise you.
You may be used to buying medicines for allergy from the pharmacist, and in this case you should let the pharmacy staff know that you are pregnant. It is also best to check with the pharmacist, or your GP, before you take any over-the-counter medicines that you may already own.
While generally it is advised to avoid taking any medication while pregnant this is simply not practical for many allergy sufferers. You can be assured that being pregnant will not stop you from being able to receive treatment for your allergies. Anti-histamines bought over the counter on pharmacists’ advice, or prescribed by a doctor, are a huge source of relief for many, and if you cannot take your usual medication there are plenty of treatments available that relieve most allergy symptoms and are safe to take during pregnancy.
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Food hypersensitivity is an umbrella term that is used whenever a person has a reaction to a food substance; this may be a food allergy or a food intolerance (non-allergic food hypersensitivity). If you have a diagnosed food allergy, or are excluding foods due to a food intolerance, you should ensure that you are getting the required nutrients while you are pregnant by checking with your GP or midwife. You can ask to be referred to a dietician if you feel that you would like extra support in this.
If you are at risk of serious symptoms related to food allergy then you may have an adrenaline device (e.g. Epipen or Anapen) for emergency situations. It is important that you discuss the use of this during pregnancy with your allergist and follow their advice.
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Check-ups while you are pregnant
Being pregnant certainly doesn’t mean you are ill. However, it is a major event in terms of your health. It may be that you will be examined by medical staff more often than you are used to, and you will have routine check-ups and blood tests.
It is important that if you have any severe allergy you let people know about this. Reactions to latex are normally avoidable, although in medical settings latex can be found in gloves and medical equipment, and for this reason a reaction can be triggered more easily. It is vital, therefore, to make sure that medical staff treating you know if you have such an allergy.
It is essential for women with food or drug allergies to have this clearly marked on their handheld pregnancy records, and that these records are carried with them in the event of an unexpected trip to hospital.
Some people wear medical alert jewellery if they are at risk of experiencing a severe allergic reaction. If you have a risk of this happening to you, it may be a good time, while pregnant or planning a pregnancy, to invest in this. Should you need emergency medical attention during your pregnancy and you are unable to tell anyone about your allergy, hospital staff can then take your allergy into account when planning your care, and any complications to do with your allergy can be minimised. Details of how to obtain medical alert jewellery can be found by contacting Allergy UK on 01322 619898.
- Changing hormone levels can mean changes in your allergy symptoms
- Don’t stop taking any allergy medications or treatments if you discover you are pregnant
- Visit your GP for a review of your medication and condition as soon as you discover you are pregnant
- Always check medication information on whether it is suitable for use while pregnant
- If you are excluding foods due to your allergies then you can ask for a referral to a dietitian
- Ensure that your allergies are listed on your handheld pregnancy notes
- Always inform emergency medical staff about your allergies
- In the case of possible severe allergic reactions consider investing in medical alert jewellery
- Ensure that all your allergy medication is easily accessible in case of emergency hospital visits
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Your Stay in Hospital
There will be many preparations that you will be making in the approach to having your baby, and it is sensible at this time to consider additional preparations that take account of your allergies. If you have allergies you need to make sure that the staff looking after you know about these so that they can avoid triggering an allergic reaction. This might be to do with latex or any drugs you are allergic to.
If you have an allergy it is important that you take the preparation seriously when you are going to enter a foreign environment, or are putting yourself in the care of other people. Informing those around you as to what allergies you have ensures that they can give you the best care possible. This includes telling any staff that may be looking after you in hospital, or assisting you with a home birth.
Whilst many women these days have their babies at home, others go to hospital. Although many babies born in hospital are discharged with their mothers within a day, other women find themselves in hospital for longer than this, either before or after the birth. Even those women planning a home birth should be prepared for a trip to hospital in case of any complications that may arise leading up to, and during, the birth of the baby.
While you are pregnant you should inform your midwife about your allergies so that they can make a note of these on your records, and if you are given the opportunity to make a delivery plan you should ensure that your allergies are noted on this as well. However, hospitals are busy places and when having a baby you may see many different staff and your carers may change as work shifts rotate during your stay. It is up to you and anyone who attends hospital with you to ensure that any staff who may be treating you, or feeding you, know your allergies where appropriate.
If the allergen is easily avoided, such as a food substance, then you may not have to tell everyone, but in the case of a latex allergy, or an allergy to a medicine, then you must ensure that every member of staff who cares for you is aware of this.
When discussing your allergies with your midwife during pregnancy, if you suffer from a drug allergy it is wise to check whether this may be something that staff would routinely give you while you are in hospital, so that you will be aware if this problem is likely to arise, and you can even discuss alternative drugs if this is necessary.
If you are allergic to one or more food substances which are not easily avoided, then you may wish to think about the possibility of taking in your own food until the hospital kitchens can accommodate your needs.
Any medications that you are taking, whether for your allergy or anything else, must be taken into the hospital with you, and staff need to be aware of these too. These include items such as inhalers and adrenaline devices, which should be easily accessible in case you need to leave for hospital quickly.
If you consider these points early on in your pregnancy you will be prepared whichever healthcare professional you meet, including dentists, pharmacists, or if you attend A&E.
- Take allergy precautions seriously in preparation for your visit to hospital
- Women planning for a home birth should also prepare in case of an emergency visit to hospital
- Allergies should always be written on your pregnancy notes
- Let all medical staff know about your allergies
- In the case of several allergies make a list so that you, or your support partner, can easily show staff what the allergens are
- Take all allergy medications with you to hospital
- Keep all allergy medications easily accessible at home in case of an emergency hospital visit
- Consider taking food with you to the hospital if you have a food allergy
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Last Updated: March 2012