Study Links Heartburn Drugs For Pregnant Women With High Risk Of Asthma In Babies

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Jan 10, 2017 12:03 PM EST

A recent study suggests that women who take heart burn medication during pregnancy may give birth to children with higher risk of developing asthma at an early age.

Pregnant women are advised to follow existing guidelines when taking medicines and to always consult with a health care practitioner if symptoms persist.

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid moving from the stomach back into the esophagus. The condition is also known as acid reflux and very common during pregnancy due to hormonal changes and pressure applied to the stomach by the growing uterus.

Drugs that are considered safe for use to reduce the symptoms of acid reflux in pregnancy include H2-receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors, as they do not affect development of the baby, according to Daily Telegraph.

Although, scientists have suggested that use of these medications in pregnancy may increase the risk of allergies in the fetus by impacting on the immune system, studies to investigate this possibility have been inconclusive.

The researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Tampere in Finland reviewed eight previous studies involving more than 1.3 million children, which examined healthcare registries and prescription databases linking information on both mothers and children.

They discovered that babies born to women who took antacids during pregnancy were more likely to have visited a doctor for symptoms of asthma.

"Our study reports an association between the onset of asthma in children and their mothers' use of acid-suppressing medication during pregnancy," says professor Aziz Sheikh, Co-director of the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at the University of Edinburgh.

He added that the findings do not prove that the acid-blocking medications caused asthma in these children and further research is necessary to better understand the association.

Dr Samantha Walker, director of Policy and research at Asthma UK emphasized that the study is at a very early stage and so pregnant women should continue to take any medication they need under the guidance and supervision of their doctors.

The researchers stressed that it is unclear whether the heartburn medication itself accounts for the development of asthma in children, or there are other unknown factors that cause heartburn in pregnant women and asthma in their children, according to Eurekalert.

The study points towards something that needs further investigation which is the reason why further studies should be conducted into the causes of asthma - a condition that affects 5.4 million people in the United Kingdom alone, the study authors added.

However, experts say the potential link which came to light by checking previous studies which had examined health records is inconclusive. The correlation could be caused by a separate, linked factor which requires further research for better understanding whether the pills affect the health of children.

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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