Pregnant women who take heartburn medication are more likely to give birth to children with asthma
Babies born to mothers who take heartburn medication during pregnancy are at greater risk of asthma, new research suggests. Drugs used to treat acid reflux are deemed safe to use in pregnancy because they don’t affect the development of the baby.
But a review of studies has found the opposite – showing they could increase the risk of asthma, a potentially fatal condition. The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
However, experts stress the research is still at a very early stage and is not conclusive, advising women to seek medical advice if they are worried.They say further research is needed to determine whether the medicines affect the health of children.
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid passing from the stomach back into the oesophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the throat.It is a very common condition in pregnancy because of hormonal changes and pressure on the stomach from the developing foetus.
Drugs called H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors can help to block the acid reflux.Researchers, led by the universities of Edinburgh and Tampere in Finland, reviewed eight previous studies that had examined health records involving more than 1.3 million children.
They found children born to mothers who had been prescribed acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were at least a third more likely to have visited a doctor for symptoms of asthma.
The scientists say that advice for expectant mothers should not change based on the findings but further studies are needed.Professor Aziz Sheikh, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “Our study reports an association between the onset of asthma in children and their mothers’ use of acid-suppressing medication during pregnancy.
“It is important to stress that this association does not prove that the medicines caused asthma in these children and further research is needed to better understand this link.”
Dr. Samantha Walker, director of policy and research at Asthma UK, said: “We don’t yet know if the heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in children or if there is a common factor we haven’t discovered yet that causes both heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children.
“The study points us towards something that needs further investigation, which is why we need to see more research carried out into the causes of asthma, a condition that affects 5.4 million people in the UK alone.”