Heartburn pills in pregnancy may be linked to
January 9, 2017
University of Edinburgh
Children born to mothers who take heartburn medication
during pregnancy may have a greater risk of developing asthma, research
suggests. Advice for expectant moms should not change based on these findings,
the researchers say, but further studies are needed.
Children born to mothers who take heartburn
medication during pregnancy may have a greater risk of developing asthma,
Those whose mothers had been
prescribed medicines to treat acid reflux during pregnancy were more likely to
be treated for asthma in childhood, a review of studies found.
However, experts say the potential
link — which came to light by reviewing studies that had examined health
records — is not conclusive.
They say that the association could
be caused by a separate, linked factor and that further research is needed to
determine whether the medicines affect the health of children.
Mothers-to-be should follow existing
guidelines — to use the medicines as required — and consult with a doctor or
nurse if symptoms persist, they recommend.
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid
passing from the stomach back into the esophagus — the tube that connects the
stomach to the throat. The condition is very common in pregnancy because of
hormonal changes and pressure on the stomach from the growing womb.
Drugs called H2-receptor antagonists
and proton pump inhibitors can help to block this acid reflux. They are
considered safe to use in pregnancy because they do not affect development of
Scientists had previously suggested
that use of these medicines may increase the risk of allergies in the unborn
baby through impacting on the immune system. Studies to investigate a link have
Researchers led by the Universities
of Edinburgh and Tampere in Finland reviewed eight previous studies involving
more than 1.3 million children. The research had examined healthcare registries
and prescription databases linking information about both mothers and children.
The team found that children born to
mothers who had been prescribed acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were at
least one third more likely to have visited a doctor for symptoms of asthma.
Advice for expectant mums should not
change based on these findings, the researchers say, but further studies are
The study is published in the Journal
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, Co-director
of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at 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: “It is important to stress that
this research is at a very early stage and expectant mums should continue to
take any medication they need under the guidance of their doctor or nurse.
“We don’t yet know if the
heartburn medication itself is contributing to the development of asthma in
children, or if there is 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.
“Mums-to-be with any concerns
can call the Asthma UK helpline on 0300 222 58000 to speak to a specialist
- Rebecca E. Devine, Nicola McCleary, Aziz Sheikh, Bright
I. Nwaru. Acid-suppressive medications during pregnancy and risk of
asthma and allergy in children: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2016.09.046
/* Style Definitions */
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;